Fergal O’Brien’s Bonttay will head straight to the Cheltenham Festival to take on the Grade One Weatherbys Champion Bumper.
The five-year-old is unbeaten in three runs so far, beginning with her debut performance at Market Rasen in August last year.
Two Cheltenham outings followed, the first another success in October when pitched against geldings and the second an impressive victory in the Listed Evesham Mares’ Open National Hunt Flat Race on November 13.
Further National Hunt Flat races at Sandown, Market Rasen and Aintree have been considered for the early months of the year, but the mare would be burdened with a penalty in those events and so the next planned stop is Cheltenham in March.
“We’re hoping to take Bonttay back to Cheltenham,” O’Brien said.
“She’s three from three now and she’s won twice around Cheltenham and if we go anywhere else with her, she’ll have a penalty.
“If we go to a mares’ race at Market Rasen or Sandown she’ll have a penalty, if we go to Aintree she’ll have a penalty.
“We feel, collectively, that she’s better off going to a track where she’s already won, she beat the boys round there when she won in October so hopefully we’ll get her to Cheltenham in March.”
O’Brien also discussed the fortunes of novice hurdler Great Heart’Jac, who was the runner-up for a third consecutive time when second at Doncaster on Tuesday.
The seven-year-old is a point-to-point winner and signed off his bumper career with a good second behind Paul Nicholls’ Timeforatune at Chepstow in October, a performance made more impressive when the latter went on to land a Listed contest at Cheltenham in November.
Great Heart’Jac made his hurdles debut at Hereford in November and was second once again, with Doncaster on Tuesday the scene for another runner-up spot.
Amongst a competitive field the bay travelled well to take the last in the lead as Moriko De Vassy blundered and looked to have scuppered his chances.
Tom Symonds’ horse was able to rally, however, and produced a late burst to deny Great Heart’Jac by just a neck on the line.
“We just keeping bumping into one, we got just touched off at Hereford and we got just beaten by a good horse of Paul Nicholls’ the first time out,” the trainer said.
“That was a solid run, I think Tom Symonds’ horse is a very good horse and was a deserved winner.
“He made a mistake at the last and we thought we’d won but Aidan’s (Coleman) horse (Moriko De Vassy), to his credit, picked up again and carried all that weight – he was definitely a worthy winner.
“We were delighted with our lad, I think Nicky Henderson’s horse (Russian Ruler, third) is a good horse as well so he ran very well, we’re very pleased with him.
“It was a good solid run, we’ve made the running on him and he’s still a bit green so that will hopefully make a bit more of a man of him.
“Liam (Harrison) felt that he was still very green and inexperienced, even though he’s run in two point to points and four bumpers, we’ll just get him back now and have a look to see where we go next.”