NORTON TRAINER Brian Ellison is leaning towards the Trull House Stud Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle as the likely target for Smart Talk at Cheltenham next month.
The six-year-old holds an entry in the OLBG Mares’ Hurdle, but Ellison is not keen to take on Willie Mullins’ Annie Power, should she be aimed at that race.
Smart Talk booked her place at the Festival when winning a Grade Two contest at Doncaster in January.
Smart Talk is 8-1 second favourite for her target, behind even-money favourite Limini, another raider from the Mullins yard.
“At the moment we’re guiding to the mares’ only novice race unless anything happens to Annie Power,” said the North Yorkshire trainer.
“We’ll probably keep her to the novice race, I would think, as she’s second favourite for that. She’s actually put four kilos of weight on since she ran. She’s a big, gorgeous filly. She’s a monster.
“Unless something happens to Annie Power I’d imagine that’s where we’ll end up.”
Ditcheat trainer Paul Nicholls, meanwhile, believes it will be testament to the character of Aux Ptits Soins should he make it to the Cheltenham Festival.
Absent since landing the Coral Cup on his first start for the Ditcheat handler at the corresponding meeting 12 months ago, the six-year-old is scheduled to have his first outing of this campaign in the World Hurdle on March 17.
Although the John Hales-owned Aux Ptits Soins has been plagued by several problems which have held him up this season, Nicholls remains hopeful he can have him ready in time.
He said: “Aux Ptits Soins had a load of problems in the autumn, but he is back working very, very hard now.
“I am very pleased with what I’ve seen so far.
“We’ve got five weeks left to get him spot-on. Seeing him work last week, we wouldn’t be far away with him.
“It’s been a rush to get him back with all the problems he has had. If he does get there it will be a lot of credit to him.
“We are very happy with him, anyway.”
Stablemate and fellow World Hurdle entry Saphir Du Rheu appears to have “turned a corner” since undergoing a breathing operation.
The seven-year-old, who had his chasing career put on hold after finishing fifth in the Hennessy, has not been seen since occupying the same position in the Long Walk Hurdle at Ascot in December.
He said: “Saphir had a gallop last week and will have another gallop. He has come really good and has turned a corner in himself. At Christmas, when some of ours weren’t running great, he was a little bit disappointing. He has had his palate cauterized since he last ran.
“Definitely his best form was last spring on better ground.
“Hopefully the ground will be better for him and we will see a different horse.”
FIVE TO FOLLOW
1, Camdora (tonight, 5.40pm Chelmsford): Comfortably opened her account in January and can make light of a 7lbs rise under Timmy Murphy (above).
2, Cultured Knight (tonight, 7.10pm Chelmsford): Hammered in the betting when runner-up on debut and can strike second time out.
3, You’re A Goat (tonight, 8.10pm Chelmsford): Well-backed the last twice and should make it third time lucky under Adam Kirby.
4, Fairy Foxglove (tomorrow, 5.45pm Wolves): Good winner on Feb 1 and can defy 6lb penalty.
5, Supersta (tomorrow, 7.45pm Wolves): Impressive on Sunday and can win again.