sport

Kempton plan for Duke

Trainer Nicky Richards is eyeing a trip south for back-to-form Kelso winner Duke Of Navan.

The Dovecote Novices' Hurdle at Kempton on February 23 is themost likely next port of call for the five-year-old after his impressive success on Sunday.

Having shown smart form in bumpers, Duke Of Navan absolutely bolted up on his hurdling debut at Newcastle in October and was then fourth in a red-hot race won by Dodging Bullets at Cheltenham.

Back in a lesser grade, Duke Of Navan turned in a smart display to win readily in the Scottish Borders and while the lucrative Betfair Hurdle at Newbury is also under consideration, trainer Nicky Richards feels it may be more sensible to stick to novice company for the time being.

"He's fine this morning and I thought it was another good performance," said the Greystoke handler.

"He's an unbelievable horse really as he's a big horse who is so chilled out at home, but when he goes to the racecourse he shows a lot of speed.

"He is in the Betfair Hurdle but he might just struggle to get in that and at the moment I'm favouring going to Kempton for the Dovecote anyway.

"Even if he did get in at Newbury, it would be a fair ask for a novice who has had just three runs to go for a big handicap like that.

"It's a very nice prize, but I don't have wagon loads of horses like him and I don't want to blow it all to bits for one day.

"I want to make a good job of him and if I can, I'm fairly confident he's going to be running in some big races for the next few years.

"We'll leave him in the Betfair, I'm not saying no and I'm not saying yes to that.

"He'll probably just stay against novices in the Dovecote and you'd like to think you'd get a bit of nice ground down there as well, which will suit him."

Richards also revealed his charge was more likely to wait for the Grand National meeting at Aintree than take his place in one of the major novice races at the Cheltenham Festival in March.

"Cheltenham is the greatest place in the world but it's a similar thing to the Betfair race, you can run a horse there and blow it all to bits," he said.

"At the moment I'd be half-favouring missing Cheltenham and waiting for Aintree with him. He is a steeplechaser in the making. It's not all about this season."

Duke Of Navan is one of two potential stars in Richards' yard, the other being the exciting Eduard, who actually beat his stablemate in a Kelso bumper in March of last year.

He has also won over hurdles at Newcastle and was last seen finishing third behind subsequent Tolworth Hurdle winner Melodic Rendezvous at Cheltenham.

"He's a cracking horse as well and still a big baby," said Richards.

"The plan for him is to go to Ayr on February 4 and then maybe to Kelso for the Premier Hurdle.

"He might skip Cheltenham as well and wait until Aintree.

"They are two similar horses who've followed similar paths, but whereas Duke Of Navan looks all speed at the moment, I think Eduard will stay well. I don't think he'll have any trouble getting three miles."