The gallant Ronald Pump is set to step back up to three miles in pursuit of a first Grade One success.
For a second year in a row the Matthew Smith-trained star had the thankless task of chasing home Honeysuckle in last Sunday’s Hatton’s Grace Hurdle at Fairyhouse.
The one-time bargain buy €1,000 purchase eventually finished an eight-length runner-up to the unbeaten Champion Hurdle winner but had a field of proven Grade One performers spread out behind him.
That was at two-and-a-half miles and Smith is gearing up for a return to three miles for Ronald Pump’s next start.
That will be either in Ascot’s Long Walk Hurdle or the Christmas Hurdle at Leopardstown’s festival.
“We were delighted with him, he ran a cracker and we were very happy,” Smith said.
“Honeysuckle is phenomenal, she is unreal so we were over the moon with our horse. We had said before that if he could finish second to her then we’d be delighted,” he added.
It continued a frustrating run of near misses at the top level for Ronald Pump, who as well as running Honeysuckle to half a length in last year’s Hatton’s Grace also finished runner-up in the Stayers Hurdle at Cheltenham in 2020.
Reflecting on his latest Grade One near miss, Smith commented: “I think they were nearly all winners of Grade Ones, everything that finished behind him, so it was a great run against good horses.
“They went a good gallop as well and he’s a three-miler, that’s his trip really.
“He might get an entry in the Long Walk Hurdle now, either that or Leopardstown at Christmas.
“We’re keeping our options open, we’ll have a look at both of the entries and see.”
Wednesday's action takes place on the all-weather at Dundalk where Ger Lyons is likely to fancy his juvenile runners, Jarvis and Trent, both ridden by champion jockey Colin Keane.