Sir Gerhard’s Cheltenham Festival target remains undecided – but owners Cheveley Park Stud favour a tilt at the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle.
The seven-year-old was the winner of the Weatherbys Champion Bumper at the meeting last season and is unbeaten in two runs since graduating to hurdling.
After winning his maiden by eight lengths at Leopardstown, the Willie Mullins-trained gelding then went on to record an impressive six-length victory in the Grade One Tattersalls Ireland Novice Hurdle at the Dublin Racing Festival.
Mullins has entered him in the two-mile Sky Bet Supreme Novices’ Hurdle and the two-mile-five-furlong Ballymore, and while he heads the market for both connections are liable to opt for the latter option next week.
“We’re definitely leaning towards the Ballymore, but I can’t give you a decision as yet because Willie is still mulling it over,” Cheveley Park director Richard Thompson told Sky Sports Racing.
“It looks like the Ballymore on balance, but there’s been no final decision yet.
“I’m actually very relaxed to be honest with you, we are very relaxed at Cheveley as to which race he goes for.
“It’s down to Willie, he’ll look at the final shape of each race and see how that’s looking in terms of his own stable as he’s got other runners.
“With Sir Gerhard the feeling is he can get the Ballymore trip, and the feeling is that with the quality he has he can compete in both.
“I think he’d win either, but the Supreme is, at the moment, the stronger race – no question.
“It’s a fine balance, but if we’re told by Willie that he’s a horse that can compete in both and the Ballymore is a slightly weaker race, then of course the Ballymore would be the race we’d go for.”
Thompson also said that he and Henry de Bromhead are inclined to head for the Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase with Envoi Allen, who also holds an entry for the Ryanair Chase.
The bay arrived at last year’s Festival with an unbeaten record but fell in the Marsh Novices’ Chase and it has not been straightforward since, pulling up at Punchestown the following month, where he suffered an injury, and finishing sixth in the John Durkan before winning a shallow renewal of the Paddy’s Rewards Club Chase in December.
“He’s been working very well recently, schooling very well, he’ll probably go for the Queen Mother,” said Thompson.
“Again, it’s not fully decided but that’s the way we’re definitely leaning.
“He’s a quick horse and he jumps fast. I know he’s been a little bit out of sorts since Cheltenham when he fell last year, but we’ve got a lot of faith in the horse, he’s won us six Grade Ones, two at Cheltenham.”
The stud will still be represented in the Ryanair as they intend to run the Mullins-trained eight-year-old Allaho, who was a brilliant 12-length winner of the contest last year and is a horse Thompson considers his “banker” of the meeting.
“He’s a quality horse, is Allaho. Last year it was perfect for him in the Ryanair, the two and a half miles,” he said.
“We’re very confident, Allaho’s done nothing wrong recently so we’ve just got to hope the race goes well on the day.
“I think the banker has to be Allaho, Envoi could run a better race than people think. We’re hoping for a big race from A Plus Tard, but I think Allaho has to be the banker.”
A Plus Tard was the runner-up of the Boodles Cheltenham Gold Cup last year and will line up for the blue riband again, with Thompson hopeful he can prove his stamina after being outstayed by Minella Indo 12 months ago.
“He’s got a tremendous CV and he won at Cheltenham in 2019,” he said.
“Things have been looking very positive for A Plus Tard and we hope to be in the shake-up.
“There’s no way he’ll run in the Ryanair, he’ll run in the Gold Cup and he goes with a big chance.
“I’m very confident that he’s got no problems with stamina to stay up the hill.
“Last year he did get drawn into a battle with Minella too early, potentially, and Minella obviously outstayed him.
“We know he’s got the class, I believe he’s got the stamina, and we know he’s got the turn of foot.”