Nicky Martin is down to “Plan H” as she prepares the unbeaten Bear Ghylls for the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival.
The six-year-old has won each of his four runs so far, taking a bumper by 19 lengths on his racecourse debut before going on to score a hat-trick of victories over hurdles.
His last success was a five-length triumph at Exeter in January, after which Martin found her preferred path to Festival blocked by a spell of race abandonments.
A waterlogged track prevented the trainer from introducing her charge to the Cheltenham hill when Festival Trials Day was lost, with an intended run in Huntingdon’s Sidney Banks Memorial Novices’ Hurdle scuppered for the same reason.
Despite the interrupted preparation, Bear Ghylls remains on course for his first venture into Grade One company.
“At the moment everything is going to Plan H, which we are on as it all got a bit messed up at the beginning, but we’re back on course,” Martin said.
The trainer is bolstered by the subsequent performances of several horses beaten by Bear Ghylls – amongst them David Pipe’s Make Me A Believer, who went on to win a novices’ hurdle at Cheltenham in December and then finish a half-length third in the Grade Two Leamington Novices’ Hurdle at Warwick.
“His form looks so solid, especially the race at Lingfield – the first hurdle race he won,” Martin said.
“I believe all six that were behind him have gone on and won, so the form’s looking very solid, even though he’s never run in a big race as of yet.
“His form is good, he’s in good order and he’s fresh, so fingers crossed.
“Everybody’s very excited – fingers crossed we get there all intact.”
Though the Festival is the imminent target, Martin has a graduation to novice chasing pencilled in for the gelding when he returns from a summer break next season.
“We’ve always said that next year he’ll go chasing because he is a chaser in the making, he’s a big horse,” she explained.
“A good summer on his back and he’ll fill out again, I think he’ll respect fences a lot more than hurdles.
“That’s always been the plan, to go chasing with him next year, without a doubt.”
From her Minehead stable, Martin also trains Welsh Grand National runner-up The Two Amigos, who was last seen finishing third in the Grand National Trial Handicap Chase at Haydock on February 20.
The Midlands Grand National at Uttoxeter is the next port of call for the gelding, who remains on a mark of 144 after four successive placed runs.
“Having Bear Ghylls and The Two Amigos, it’s quite special for me,” Martin said of her two stable flagbearers.
“Especially with us being such a small yard.
“Just as long as the ground doesn’t go good to firm or something silly, which I’m sure it won’t as we’re due some rain, that (the Midlands National) is definitely the plan.”