Comeback victory sets Superb Story on track for Cheltenham

Baie Des Iles to target Irish Grand National following decent effort in Welsh equivalent

Superb Story:  Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham is potential target. Photograph: Cody Glenn/Sportsfile

Superb Story: Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham is potential target. Photograph: Cody Glenn/Sportsfile

 

Superb Story is set to head straight to the Cheltenham festival following his comeback victory at Musselburgh on New Year’s Day.

The six-year-old was raced sparingly last season, filling the runner-up spot in the Greatwood Hurdle at Cheltenham in November, before running out an impressive winner of the County Hurdle at Prestbury Park in March.

He was pulled up when considered a leading contender for the Galway Hurdle during the summer, but showed his true colours in Scotland, and given he seems at his best when fresh, trainer Dan Skelton is keen to save his charge for the showpiece meeting in the spring, with the Champion Hurdle a potential target.

Skelton said: “We were really happy with him on Sunday. Galway was a bit of a disaster. Everything that could go wrong did go wrong that day, so it was nice to see him bounce back.

“I think we’ll probably go straight to Cheltenham now and C.

“The Champion Hurdle would obviously be a big step up, but we’ll see how the picture is looking nearer the time.”

Superb Story was one of two winners on the afternoon for Skelton, with The Bay Oak landing cramped odds.

It was a welcome change of luck for the team after the highly-regarded Robin Roe suffered a season-ending injury when falling three from the finish in Saturday’s Challow Hurdle at Newbury.

“That’s the ups and downs of racing, isn’t it?” said Skelton.

“There was a long way to go when he came down, but he was cantering at the time.”

Baie Des Iles

The Curragh trainer feels the six-year-old mare would have finished closer to the winner Native River than being beaten 23 lengths in fifth place had conditions at Chepstow been more testing.

It was still a good run and O’Sullivan is looking ahead to giving Baie Des Iles a second attempt at the Fairyhouse showpiece on Easter Monday. She was sixth to Rogue Angel last spring.

O’Sullivan intends giving her a prep run next month at either Punchestown or Newcastle.

“She is great since Chepstow, there is not a bother on her and she came out of the race really well,” he said.

“Katie [Walsh] just felt that if the ground had been softer she would have even been a bit closer. Most years it’s a lot heavier than what it was the other day. It was yielding to soft the other day, not heavy which she loves.

“The plan now is to probably run in the Irish National trial in February at Punchestown – she was second in it last year to Bonny Kate.

“She could go for that or the Eider Chase, which is also in February, over four miles.

“She won’t be going to Aintree for the Grand National as she is too young.

“She has only just turned six, and she won’t be allowed to run in the National until she is seven. They brought in that rule a couple of years ago.

“She would without doubt go to Aintree only for that rule. Her owner Zorka Wentworth loves her National Hunt racing, and she would love for her to run there.

“You’d never know though, if she is safe, healthy and sound we might consider running her in it the following year.

“She was sixth in the Irish National last year when it wasn’t soft enough either, so she will definitely get an entry in it again this year.”

Raz de Maree

Meanwhile, Raz De Maree’s main objective is the Randox Health Grand National at Aintree on April 8th following his fine effort in the Welsh equivalent.

The Cork Grand National scorer closed the gap on winner Native River to a length and three-quarters at the line in the Chepstow marathon, but could not quite get to the bold-jumping top weight.

Trainer Gavin Cromwell plans to send Raz De Maree back to Britain for his next race, the Betfred Eider Chase on February 25th, before heading to Liverpool for the world’s greatest steeplechase.

“It was a great run in Chepstow. It was just disappointing to come up against a horse like that,” said the Navan handler.

“He’s come out of it good and has been in the form of his life.

“He’ll probably go to the Eider and then the English National. That’s the plan.”

Cromwell felt stablemate Jer’s Girl was not at her best for some reason when last of five behind Petit Mouchoir in the Ryanair Hurdle at Leopardstown last week.

None the worse for that disappointing display, Jer’s Girl has the OLBG Mares’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival as her main target.

“She ran a bit flat, but she’s come out of the race okay,” said Cromwell.

“She’ll go for the Mares’ Hurdle at Cheltenham. Whether she runs in between, I’m not sure.”

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