Noel Meade says it is “unlikely” that Cask Mate will head to Newbury for the valuable Betfair Hurdle in a fortnight’s time, preferring to keep him at home in Ireland.
The nine-year-old, owned by the High Spirits Racing Club, has only been out of the first two once in eight runs over hurdles and was a fine runner-up to odds-on Zanahiyr in a Grade Two contest at Down Royal when last seen in October.
The Gordon Elliott-trained Zanahiyr is highly regarded by connections and is currently a 14-1 chance for the Champion Hurdle.
Cask Mate appears nicely handicapped on the strength of that and is currently a 20-1 shot with the sponsors for the extended two-mile Betfair Hurdle on February 12.
However, while Cask Mate is set for his first run in three months, it is likely to be on home turf at Leopardstown on Sunday.
Meade said: “Cask Mate will probably go to Leopardstown for the Liffey Handicap Hurdle, so it is unlikely that he will go for the Betfair Hurdle at Newbury in a fortnight.
“But you wouldn’t know. There could be a change of plans. He will definitely go to Leopardstown first, anyway. Whether we go over to Newbury after that, I don’t know.”
The Castletown handler is also primed to unleash Grade One winner Beacon Edge at the Dublin track on the same day.
The eight-year-old, owned by Michael O’Leary’s Giggingstown House Stud, was an impressive winner of the Drinmore Novices’ Chase at Fairyhouse when last seen in November.
That was just his second attempt over fences and he is as short as 12-1 with William Hill for the Brown Advisory Novices’ Chase at the Cheltenham Festival.
Meade said: “Beacon Edge is in the two-mile-five Ladbrokes Novices Chase at Leopardstown.
“He could well go there – he is being prepared for it, anyway.
“We’ll see what happens. Whether he does or he doesn’t, he is a Grade One winner already, so we’ll see how we go.”