Grumeti ready to make his return
Trainer Alan King admits next month's Betfair Hurdle at Newbury would not be an ideal starting point for Champion Hurdle contender Grumeti.
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The five-year-old was among the top rank in the juvenile division last term, finishing third in the Triumph Hurdle before reversing form with Countrywide Flame when winning the Aintree equivalent.
He susquently ran twice on the level, winning at Ascot before being narrowly beaten at Goodwood in May.
However, Grumeti has been off the track since that outing and King has identified the Newbury feature on February 9 as a possible starting point if his hand is forced.
He told www.alankingracing.co.uk: "Grumeti has been off the track since he ran on the Flat at Goodwood last summer but, though we have had a few problems, we are getting there.
"However, it would not be ideal bringing him back for such a hugely competitive handicap as the Betfair, though at this time of the year you always have to keep your options open what with the weather, and if we are running out of time for a prep for Cheltenham we might well have to consider Newbury.
"It has been a difficult time with Grumeti, but he does seem in very good form.
"He improved last spring and then went up 10lb on the Flat for winning at Ascot and finishing second at Goodwood, so if he can progress the same amount over hurdles we might yet make the Champion."
Grumeti is a general 25-1 shot for the Stan James Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham on March 13, for which entries are due to be announced next week.
(reopens) Ladbroke Hurdle winner Cause Of Causes is also entered in the Betfair Hurdle, but will first run at Navan on Sunday.
The five-year-old gelding faces a stiff test against Hisaabaat and the Willie Mullins duo of Midnight Game and Pickapocketortwo in the Follow Navan On Facebook Hurdle.
Trainer Gordon Elliott said: "The plan is to run on Sunday.
"He's highly rated now and there are not a lot of places to go with him, so we'll let him take his chance in the conditions race.
"He's entered for the Betfair Hurdle at Newbury but I'm not sure about that yet.
"We'll see how he gets on on Sunday before we make a decision.
"It looks a good race (on Sunday) and our lad is in good form."