Blazing Khal makes eagerly-awaited return at Navan

Blazing Khal makes his long-awaited return in the William Hill Boyne Hurdle at Navan on Sunday.

The Charles Byrnes-trained seven-year-old is three from three over obstacles and beat Gelino Bello in back-to-back Grade Two novice events at Cheltenham in the autumn of 2021.

But while Gelino Bello went on to strike Grade One glory at Aintree, Blazing Khal spent the rest of his novice campaign on the sidelines and has been off the track for over 400 days.

Byrnes said earlier in the new year his stable star was “50-50 at best” to make this year’s Cheltenham Festival, but he is now set to make his comeback in this weekend’s Grade Two contest.

Your first 30 days for just £1

“He’s in good shape and working well – we’re hoping for the best,” he said.

“We’ve had a good run for the last few weeks, so fingers crossed.”

Blazing Khal is a 9-2 shot with the sponsors for the Paddy Power Stayers’ Hurdle at Cheltenham on March 16, a race Byrnes memorably won with Solwhit 10 years ago.

However, the Ballingarry handler is keen to see how he performs this weekend before making future plans.

He added: “We’re not really looking beyond this weekend, so we’ll see how it goes.”

Gordon Elliott with Delta Work at his yard
Gordon Elliott with Delta Work at his yard (Niall Carson/PA)

Blazing Khal is one of nine runners declared for the Boyne Hurdle, with Gordon Elliott represented by top-weight Sire Du Berlais, Grand Roi and Delta Work, with the latter warming up for his defence of the Glenfarclas Chase at Cheltenham.

Noel Meade has saddled the last two winners of the two-mile-five-furlong contest in Beacon Edge and Thedevilscoachman and Beacon Edge is in the mix once more, as is stablemate Highland Charge.

Dreal Deal (Ronan McNally), Meet And Greet (Oliver McKiernan) and Saint Sam (Willie Mullins) complete the line-up.

On the same card Grade Three honours are up for grabs in the William Hill Ten Up Novice Chase.

Likely contenders for this three-mile heat include Jonathan Sweeney’s Churchstonewarrior, Elliott’s Front Assault, the Mullins-trained Glengouly and Mahler Mission from John McConnell’s yard.

Mahler Mission winning over hurdles at Doncaster
Mahler Mission winning over hurdles at Doncaster (Tim Goode/PA)

The latter won by 10 lengths over the course and distance on his latest appearance and is prominent in ante-post lists for the National Hunt Chase at the Festival in March.

McConnell said: “It looks a competitive race. There doesn’t look to be a superstar in it, but it’s competitive all the same.

“Obviously he’s jumped around the track no problem, so we’re hopeful of a good run.

“That (National Hunt Chase) is the plan. We’re very hopeful that he’ll be competitive in it.”

Elliott saddles three of the 10 runners declared for the I.N.H. Stallion Owners EBF Novice Hurdle in American Mike, Imagine and Deeply Superficial.

American Mike, runner-up to Facile Vega in last season’s Champion Bumper, has been off the track since disappointing in the Monksfield Novice Hurdle in November, having missed an intended engagement at last weekend’s Dublin Racing Festival due to a death in the owners’ family.

“Unfortunately we couldn’t run American Mike in Leopardstown the other day. He scoped bad after Navan and there was something wrong with him, so we’ve missed a good part of the season,” said Elliott.

“I was looking forward to running him the other day, but couldn’t due to personal reasons.

“He’s running over two miles on Sunday, which isn’t ideal, but I kind of need to get a run into him because he can be a fresh horse and I just want to knock the freshness off him.”

The Mullins-trained pair of Hunters Yarn and Tactical Move also merit consideration in an intriguing Listed event, as do Gavin Cromwell’s Inothewayurthinkin and Peter Fahey’s The Big Doyen.

Other Recent Posts by This Author:

Your first 30 days for just £1