Fitz to get Festival sighter
Michael Winters is looking forward to giving his exciting prospect Rebel Fitz his first taste of Cheltenham on Friday.
The County Cork trainer will saddle the eight-year-old for the Cheltenham Annual Members Novices' Chase as long as conditions are suitable.
The aim is to give Rebel Fitz, winner of five of his six starts over fences, a run at the home of British jumps racing in the hope of returning for the Festival in March.
"Rebel Fitz will travel over at the start of the week and will run at Cheltenham, providing the ground is not too fast," said Winters.
"He has come out of Tipperary in strapping form. He sweated an awful lot during the race but Barry Geraghty came back and said that he could have gone round again, so he really had no race at all.
"He would sometimes be a bit too smart and think a little when going over a hurdle but he has been very clever over fences so far and we have been delighted with him.
"Barry says that two and a half miles is his best trip. Down the road, we will have to wait and see what opposition comes up over the winter in Ireland and Britain but, at the moment, it seems that two and a half is the best for him.
"We will give him a bit of time after Cheltenham and we won't be in a hurry afterwards. We will get home, have a good look at him and freshen him back up. He's not a hard horse to train in a lot of ways because he doesn't take a lot of work to get fit.
"It is exciting for the owner to have a runner at Cheltenham and there is always a bit of rivalry between England and Ireland. If everything goes right this season, we can hopefully bring him back for the Festival in March."
Rebel Fitz could face stiff opposition from Third Intention, who was beaten a neck in a Grade One novices' chase at Sandown in February, and Colour Squadron, who has twice been second in Grade One company over hurdles.
The Irish raider is unlikely to get an easy ride as among the home entries are Jonjo O'Neill's Taquin De Seuil, who was a smart staying novice hurdler last term, Heronry from Nicky Henderson's stable and Paul Nicholls' duo of Black Thunder and Dark Lover.
Third Intention, second to Dynaste in the Mildmay Novices' Chase at Aintree, is a possible though trainer Colin Tizzard has also given the six-year-old an entry in the Ryman Stationery Cheltenham Business Club Novices' Chase on the same card, which has been won by Ollie Magern, Iris's Gift and Joe Lively down the years.
Day one of the Showcase meeting has attracted many interesting entries among which are Anthony Honeyball's Regal Encore.
The JP McManus-owned five-year-old, runner-up in the Weatherbys Champion Bumper at the Festival in March, could make his debut over jumps in the Jack Dee Here On 31st October Maiden Hurdle for which there are 23 entries.