JONJO O’Neill has raised the possibility of Sunnyhillboy running in the Betfred Cheltenham Gold Cup.
Although Sunnyhillboy is not expected to be a contender to retain the title after Synchronised’s victory for the stable last year, it is more part of his preparation for the John Smith’s Grand National.
While the Gold Cup hero lost his life at Aintree, Sunnyhillboy was denied victory by only a nose.
He made a promising reappearance over hurdles at Haydock but was pulled up at Warwick last month.
“I’ve got him in the Pertemps, but there will be 28 runners there and I wouldn’t want anything to happen to him,” said the trainer. “I’m not sure where we’ll go, but the plan is really Aintree.
“He could well run at Cheltenham and there would be fewer runners in the Gold Cup so it might be an option.”
There will be plenty of other runners for the stable in the handicaps, but another leading fancy must be Taquin Du Seuil, winner of the Challow Hurdle at Newbury.
“He’d be my best chance in the two-and-a-half ]Neptune], but it’s a hot race,” O’Neill said.
Old stager Albertas Run will be back to challenge for a third Ryanair Chase but did not exactly inspire in last weekend’s racecourse gallop at Kempton.
“He’s just OK,” O’Neill said. “All being well, he’ll run, and he’s healthy, but is he as enthusiastic?” The other runner in the showpiece races could be the enigmatic Get Me Out Of Here, last seen when pulled up on Boxing Day.
O’Neill said: “He’s in the Coral Cup and the World Hurdle, we haven’t decided which way to go but I’d like to try him over three miles again and we might well go down the stayers’ route.”
Nicky Henderson plans to see whether cheekpieces will make a difference to Long Run’s performance when he is assessed by jumping guru Yogi Breisner later this week. Breisner, who is an important part of the British eventing team set-up, is often asked to run his eye over top racehorses, and has worked with the Robert Waley-Cohen-owned eight-year-old before.
While Long Run was a good second in the Betfair Chase and won another King George at Christmas, he has raced a little lazily at times and needed to be pushed out to stay level with fellow Gold Cup contender Bobs Worth and Champion Hurdle aspirant Binocular when the trio worked together at Kempton last weekend.
“Yogi’s coming down to school a few horses this week, and we’ll probably school him in the cheekpieces, as it’s something we’re thinking about,” Henderson said.
Henderson will complete the preparations of his other Champion Hurdle contender, Grandouet, as well as the red-hot Arkle favourite Simonsig, with another racecourse gallop at the weekend.
“Simonsig, Megalypos and Grandouet will go to Newbury on Sunday, and it will be just like what we did at Kempton,” he said.