Kazal and last year’s sixth-placed Aitmatov are among a powerful 11-strong Irish-trained entry that also includes Smurfit Kappa Champion Hurdle winners Brave Inca and Hardy Eustace, and the Edward O’Grady-trained Catch Me, winner of his last three starts this season. An intriguing entry is the Noel Meade-trained Nicanor, a stablemate of Aitmatov who is the only horse ever to beat Denman when landing the 2006 Ballymore Properties Novices’ Hurdle although he has been off the track since that season. Meade revealed that, while Aitmatov is on course for the Ladbrokes World Hurdle, Nicanor is more likely to have a novice chase target at The Festival.
“Aitmatov holds an entry in the Ladbrokes World Hurdle and he is definitely a possible runner in the race if the ground is good,” said the County Meath trainer. “Last year I came to the conclusion that three miles was probably too far for him but he ran a sound race over three miles at The Festival and at Punchestown.
“He’s a funny little customer and I made a big mistake by not running him in the Christmas Hurdle over three miles at Leopardstown. He’s going to run in the Listed Limestone Lad Hurdle at Naas on Saturday on ground he doesn’t really like but it is a winnable race and it is over a trip (2m 3f) that he enjoys. He’s also been entered in the Smurfit Kappa Champion Hurdle but if the ground came up good at The Festival, then I would be leaning towards the Ladbrokes World Hurdle.
“We have also entered Nicanor in the Ladbrokes World Hurdle and we wanted to keep all of our options open at the moment. He’s almost certainly going chasing but we just wanted to give him an entry over hurdles in case everything didn’t work out. At the moment, everything is going well with him, but you never know what turns and twists can happen.
“Hopefully, he will be returning to the racecourse soon and he might be entered for a novice chase before the end of the month. We will also give him entries in The Irish Independent Arkle Challenge Trophy Chase and the RSA Chase, which would be my preferred options with him, but you never know with jump racing.”