Joseph O’Brien plans to make a “last-minute” call on which race Fakir D’oudairies will contest at next week’s Cheltenham Festival.
The JP McManus-owned six-year-old has performed well in defeat on each of his two previous appearances at the showpiece meeting – finishing fourth in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle in 2019 and runner-up in the Arkle Trophy 12 months ago.
The son of Kapgarde was pulled up on his first start over three miles in the Savills Chase at Leopardstown on his penultimate outing, before reverting to two miles to finish second to Chacun Pour Soi at the Dublin Racing Festival.
Fakir D’oudairies has the option of taking on Chacun Pour Soi again in the Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase next Wednesday, or stepping back up in distance for the Ryanair Chase the following afternoon.
“He’s in the Queen Mother and the Ryanair, and it will be between those,” O’Brien told Sky Sports Racing.
“At this stage it might be slightly favourite that he’ll go for the Ryanair, but a final decision hasn’t been made yet. Being quite honest, it will probably be left until the last minute.
“We’ve been very pleased with his preparation. He disappointed us a bit at Christmas, but he ran very well back at Leopardstown last time – and has been well since then.
“Chacun Pour Soi looks an outstanding horse, and this season he’s been untouchable really, but wherever you go at Cheltenham you’re going to meet the top animal in that division – there’s no easy touches.”
Fakir D’oudairies is set to be part of a team of “around 12 runners” for O’Brien in the Cotswolds next week.
The Piltown-based trainer could be well represented in the Grand Annual Chase, with both Embittered and Entoucas in the mix, while Busselton is an interesting contender for the Boodles Juvenile Handicap Hurdle.
O’Brien said: “Embittered might run in the Arkle or the Grand Annual. He ran well in the County Hurdle last year and has performed well in all his starts this year, so we’re hoping for a good run from him.
“I don’t know if he has a huge amount up his sleeve, but I’m happy enough with the mark he has.
“Entoucas is in good shape, too. He has a couple of options, and the Grand Annual is one of those. He’ll go there with an each-way chance.
“The Boodles might be more likely (than the Triumph Hurdle) for Busselton. He’s run very well in his two runs for us so far, and we’re very pleased with him – I think he’ll acquit himself well in whatever race he goes for.”
He added: “It’s going to be a different Festival to what we’ve been used to, but we’re looking forward to the week.
“There’s some great races, and I think we’re well represented.
“Hopefully they all stay in one piece between now and next week.”