Harry Fry is considering the Betfair Hurdle for his impressive Tolworth winner Metier, with the sponsor installing him as the 6-1 favourite on release of the entries.
Useful on the Flat in Ireland for Andy Slattery, Metier has taken to hurdles exceptionally well following a year off, winning at Newton Abbot and Ascot before his romp in last Saturday’s Grade One at Sandown.
With nothing else on Fry’s radar, it will either be Newbury on February 13, for which Metier is one of 49 entries, or straight to the Cheltenham Festival for the unbeaten novice.
“The owner and I discussed plans after Saturday’s win and wanted to give ourselves the option of the Betfair Hurdle, because we think it’s a race that could really suit him,” said Fry.
“He will either go for that en route to Cheltenham or go straight for Cheltenham – we will just look at the entries and weights and see how the horse is in the coming weeks.
“We’ve thought for a while now that a race like the Betfair Hurdle would be right up his street – a really strongly run two-mile race on a big, galloping track like Newbury, plus as an ex-Flat horse we know he will handle a big field.
“We’ve been delighted with the progress he’s made this season and are really excited to see how far he can go over hurdles in the future – hopefully he can make a mark at the spring Festivals.”
Fry also has another entry in Lightly Squeeze, who was still in front when coming down at the final flight in the race last season.
“We’ve also entered Lightly Squeeze, who was running a great race in this last year when taking a heavy fall at the last,” Fry added.
“He ran a nice race in the Betfair Exchange Trophy at Ascot last time out, so we potentially have two darts to throw at race.”
Paul Nicholls has a numerically strong entry with Solo, Thyme White, Christopher Wood, Miranda, Friend or Foe and Wild Max.
Nicky Henderson, the most successful trainer in the race with five victories, can choose from Buzz, Fred, Marie’s Rock and Mister Coffey.
Last year’s runner-up Ciel De Neige could run for Willie Mullins, with Dan Skelton holding two live chances in Third Time Lucki and Cadzand.
Ballyandy, Soaring Glory, The Shunter and Albert’s Back are others among a strong field of contenders.