sport

Handicaps possible for Encore

Regal Encore could bid to attempt to get his career back on track in about a month's time.

Last season's Cheltenham Festival champion bumper runner-up got off the mark over hurdles at Plumpton in November only to be turned over at odds of 1/9 at Hexham last month.

Trainer Anthony Honeyball has not lost any faith in the JP McManus-owned six-year-old and is confident he will make amends.

Honeyball has yet to decide to stick to the novice route for Regal Encore's next start or run him in a handicap hurdle now that he is qualified. The Dorset handler is also considering stepping him up in distance.

"He'll be back cantering any day now. He had a bit of a break after the Hexham race," said Honeyball.

"He'll be ready for any target we want in about a month's time going into the spring, whether we end up at Cheltenham or whatever. He's back on track anyway.

"He's got a mark of 130 so I don't know if we'll run him in a novice or a handicap. He's run in three novices so he could go for a handicap. He's a very exciting horse.

"I've not spoken to connections but if the Coral Cup (at Cheltenham) closed tomorrow I'd enter him in that. I think we are 5lb short to get into those handicaps, but he'll be well entered up.

"We wanted him to have his education at two miles, maybe take in a decent race at that trip, and then build up. I think he'd go up to two and a half, which could be his best trip, in the longer term for sure.

"There's plenty of stamina there and I'm looking forward to getting him out again."