Richards set to swerve Cheltenham
Nicky Richards is shying away from a trip to next month's Cheltenham Festival with Duke Of Navan despite another impressive display in the BetVictor Morebattle Hurdle at Kelso.
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The Greystoke handler has endured a couple of relatively quiet campaigns since the retirement of stable stalwart Monet's Garden in 2010, but has a new spring in his step this term following emergence of both Duke Of Navan and the equally exciting novice hurdler Eduard.
Duke Of Navan won two of his first three starts over timber and was far from disgraced on his other appearance behind leading novice Dodging Bullets at Cheltenham.
With plenty to find at the ratings with favourite Any Given Day, Richards' charge was allowed to go off at 5/2 for his latest two-and-a-quarter-mile test and was always travelling smoothly in the hands of Brian Harding.
After Morning Royalty dropped away, Duke Of Navan cruised onto the heels of Any Given Day approaching the final flight and although a peck on landing gave his rival a second chance, Harding's mount picked up well on the run-in to take the prize by two and a half lengths.
Duke Of Navan is engaged in the William Hill Supreme Novices' Hurdle at Cheltenham in March, but like Eduard is more likely to wait for the Grand National meeting at Aintree in April.
Richards said: "We'll just let the dust settle. He's in at Cheltenham, but we might give that a miss. The two-mile novice (Supreme) looks very hot.
"He'll probably go to Aintree I would imagine.
"He's a horse I want to develop. I think mentally and physically he's got a bit of developing still to do, so I don't see any benefit of going down to Cheltenham at the moment.
"We try to buy these type of horses and it's lovely when you get two nice ones like them.
"It's nice to get out of bed to two lovely horses like that."
Richards completed a double when 3/1 shot Brijomi Queen landed the mares' bumper for the second year in succession.
Coverholder is beginning to look an extremely shrewd purchase after he notched his second win since joining Sue Smith in the Watch Racing UK On Freeview 231 Handicap Hurdle.
The six-year-old was snapped up for 6,000 guineas after winning a Catterick seller for Tim Vaughan in late December and bolted up on his debut for new connections at Doncaster last week.
Turned out quickly, the 8/11 favourite easily got the job done again, scoring by five lengths under Jonathan England.
Smith told Racing UK: "He's a beautiful horse and he's very well-bred.
"He's done everything right since he's been with us, so we can't complain.
"I think on better ground he'll get two and a half miles easily enough and in time he's going to make a lovely chaser."
Brian Ellison's Totalize (9/4) ran out a clear-cut winner of the Harry Hill Novices' Hurdle under a fine ride from Danny Cook, but the jockey is unsure about the value of the form.
Cook said: "My lad has come through and done it nice enough in the end, but if I'd gone all out he probably wouldn't have found any more.
"He was starting to make a noise towards the end and I was trying to keep the bit in the mouth to help him breathe.
"The race kind of fell apart jumping the second-last, everyone just fell in a hole.
"He might be a nice horse next year when he learns to relax."
Outsider-of-three Kruzhlinin (6/1) claimed the Lloyd Grimme Novices' Chase for the formidable duo Donald McCain and Jason Maguire.
Rolecarr secured his fifth course win in the Amateur Jockeys' Association Amateur Riders' Handicap Chase, while Catherine Walton got 10/11 favourite Sacred Mountain up close home in the CGA Foxhunter Trial.