Trainer David Pipe is still considering whether to let Lough Derg take his chance in the 60,000 Grade Two Byrne Group Cleeve Hurdle (3.45pm), over three miles on Festival Trials Day at Cheltenham, Saturday, January 24. The nine-year-old notched his first success of the season in the Steel Plate And Sections Hurdle at Prestbury Park on New Years Day when he stayed on strongly to get the better of fellow Byrne Group Cleeve Hurdle hopeful No Refuge.
He subsequently went on to defy top-weight when making all to win a second successive Grade Two Holloways Hurdle at Ascot last Saturday, January 17, while he also recorded the biggest victory of his career at the Berkshire course when taking the Grade One Long Walk Hurdle in December, 2007.
Pipe commented: We gave Lough Derg an entry in the Byrne Group Cleeve Hurdle and hes a possibility for the race although I have to speak to the owner and see how the horse is before deciding whether he takes his chance or not. I was obviously delighted with his victory at Ascot last weekend and hes certainly a unique horse. He has come out of that race just like comes out of every race - full of beans. He won the Holloways Hurdle last year and ran in the Byrne Group Cleeve Hurdle seven days later, but we would still need to check how he is before letting him run at Cheltenham and he could alternatively line up at Sandown at the end of the month. The ground wont be an issue for him but he looks as though he has it all to do based on official ratings. Hes been entered in the Ladbrokes World Hurdle and the race is a possible target for him but hes run in the last two renewals and hes fallen short on both occasions.
The Byrne Group Cleeve Hurdle looks set to be contested by some of this seasons top staying hurdlers, including the Nicky Henderson-trained Punchestowns, who is the current ante-post favourite for the Ladbrokes World Hurdle following a facile victory in this seasons Long Walk Hurdle.
The 2007 winner Blazing Bailey may bid for a second success in the race, having finished second to the recently retired three-time Ladbrokes World Hurdle winner Inglis Drever 12 months ago, while Fair Along and Big Bucks, who have both been victorious in handicap hurdles at Cheltenham on their latest starts, are also set to test their Festival aspirations.