Connections of Paddy Power Gold Cup hero Stage Star are taking a relaxed approach as they consider an outing in one of the few opportunities available en route to the Ryanair Chase.
Paul Nicholls’ seven-year-old became a dual Grade One winner when capturing the Turners Novices’ Chase at the Cheltenham Festival and survived a final-fence scare to deny the same rival, Laura Morgan’s Notlongtillmay, when making a scintillating return at Prestbury Park last month.
That superb weight-carrying display off a mark of 155 erased any doubts about Stage Star’s top-level credentials and with his Ditcheat handler immediately nominating the Ryanair Chase as his main target for the spring, he is no bigger than 4-1 to become a two-time Festival winner in 2024.
With a necessity to race left-handed and suitable options limited, Stage Star holds an entry over three miles in Leopardstown’s Savills Chase on December 28, while Lingfield’s £165,000 Fleur de Lys Chase during the Winter Million Festival (January 21) is another plausible option.
However, the Stage Star team are in no rush to nominate their next outing and, having come out of his Cheltenham return in tip-top shape, would even have no qualms about heading to the Ryanair without a prep run if the situation dictates.
“He’s really, really good and I was dreading the call from Paul on the Sunday morning because I thought having made that mistake, he might be a bit sore,” said Dan Downie of Owners Group. “But not at all, he has been A1 and everyone has been delighted with him.
“He has been given an entry at Leopardstown over Christmas, but I think we are very relaxed about it and the main aim is the Ryanair, and if there are any doubts, then we will have no issue going straight there.
“There is a pretty valuable race at Lingfield in the New Year and that could come into the equation obviously, but there aren’t that many options, to be honest, and we are pretty restricted in terms of where we can go with him.”
He went on: “I’m not sure as we get towards Christmas and beyond how easy it will be for Paul to say we are wrapping him up until March.
“But I think given the circumstances in terms of lack of opportunities, we would only send him somewhere if everything was A1 and if for whatever reason we weren’t that happy, like ground or whatever, then he wouldn’t run and it wouldn’t matter if we had to go to Cheltenham without a prep run.”