Stuart Edmunds’ Gentleman At Arms has two possible Grade One targets at Aintree’s Grand National meeting in April.
The grey, who was previously a winner on the Flat for Harry Dunlop, switched to Edmunds’ yard and made his hurdling debut in December.
Winning convincingly in a novice event on Boxing Day, he was then stepped up in grade to finish second behind Stag Horn in the Grade Two Leamington Novices’ Hurdle and second again behind Elle Est Belle in the Sidney Banks.
He returned to winning ways when taking a novice by 10 lengths earlier this month and Edmunds now has Aintree in mind after vetoing a Cheltenham Festival run.
“He came out of his race well and he will be aimed at one of the novice hurdles at Aintree,” he said.
“He’s in good form and that is the target, it always was the target.
“The owners were away for Cheltenham and I didn’t think we were good enough to go there anyway. Hopefully as we are going to Aintree with a fresh horse, he will stand a better chance against those good horses.”
The two races in question are the two-mile-four-furlong Mersey Novices’ Hurdle and the three-mile Sefton Novices’ Hurdle, with the going likely to be a consideration when connections decide which Grade One event to opt for.
“We’ll enter him in both, if the ground came very soft we may consider the two-and-a-half but I think the three-miler could bring out the most improvement for him,” Edmunds said.
“I don’t think three miles holds any problems for him.”
The trainer is also hoping a high-calibre field will inject some pace into proceedings, a factor that has been lacking in Gentleman At Arms’ hurdling career thus far as he has largely been relied upon to make the running.
“He’s very easy to ride, he settles but we would have loved some pace in the races he’s run in, but they just don’t go fast enough for him,” he said.
“He’s not a confirmed front runner by any stretch of the imagination, he really enjoyed it at Huntingdon the other day when one came up and took us on for a little while – he loved that.”
Edmunds also has a spring target in mind for the three-year-old filly Addosh, who was victorious in the Racing TV Fillies’ Juvenile Hurdle at Huntingdon on Thursday.
The win was a welcome change of fortune for the bay, who made a good start to the campaign before unseating Ciaran Gethings when challenging for the Listed Wensleydale Juvenile Hurdle at Wetherby and then falling at the last in black-type races at both Cheltenham and Aintree.
“I was very relieved,” Edmunds said of the recent success.
“Nobody want to see horses fall and potentially get hurt, she had two crashing falls but luckily she got up and was unshaken.
“I think that’s testament to her as well, she didn’t show any signs of having had those falls, she stills rips down to them as brave as you like.
“Somebody said to me on Thursday that they hoped she picks her feet up, but I said I actually hope she puts them down because that was the problem. She was taking off but not landing.”
The trainer credits both the drying ground and a wind operation for Addosh’s improved jumping performance and now has a Grade Three juvenile fillies’ handicap hurdle at Cheltenham in his sights for her next outing.
“Possibly she was tired, I do think the ground helped her an awful lot,” he said.
“We were a little bit suspicious of her wind and we had it looked into and there was evidence that it was cutting out, so it may have been a bit of both, the ground and her wind.
“She’ll go for the Grade Three fillies’ hurdle at Cheltenham next, that’s what we’ve got in mind.”