Crawford is considering a variety of Gold Cup Bailly options.
Stuart Crawford is excited to see Gold Cup Bailly back in action, but he is still considering his options for the skilled chaser.
The seven-year-old is unbeaten since switching to fences this season. He is entered in the Timeform Novices’ Handicap Chase and the Paddy Power Cheltenham Countdown Podcast Handicap Chase this weekend, and he is also entered in the Finlay Ford At Naas Novice Chase on Sunday for a Grade Three race at Naas.
Crawford is leaning toward the open impairment worth £100,000 out of his two Cheltenham choices, yet with conditions at Prestbury Park possibly demonstrating testing on Celebration Preliminaries Day, he could be enticed to hang fire an additional seven days and reroute the child of Turgeon to the William Slope Towton Learners’ Pursuit at Wetherby on February 4.
“The horse is in good form and I’m keen to go somewhere soon,” said Crawford.
“If we don’t go this weekend, another option is Wetherby for the Towton Novices’ Chase next weekend. I’m pretty sure if you don’t see him out this weekend, you will see him out the following week – I think he’s in great form and I’m looking forward to running him again.
“At Cheltenham, the premier handicap looks pretty appetising over the novice one. I wouldn’t be opposed a tilt at that, but nothing is set in stone at the minute and the ground at Cheltenham is a bit of a concern.
“It should be on all right you would imagine, but it could end up being quite tacky ground and I would say whatever goes there this weekend could be getting a hard race.”
Gold Cup Bailly is entered in the National Hunt Chase at the Cheltenham Festival; however, Crawford is not eager to assign a target to his charge and is only interested in determining how long he can maintain his winning streak.
He added: “We are in a lucky position with him where he has plenty of options and no real big plans, we’re just keen to get him out somewhere.
“If we can keep on winning with him in the short term, that is what we’re going to try to do with him and if any horse does that, sooner or later they will be taking you to the bigger race and the bigger day.”
With O’Toole, who made an impressive debut as a chasing horse earlier this month at Newcastle, the handler in County Antrim is also eager to take the long way to the top.
He has a Grade One entry for the Dublin Racing Festival, but he is likely to swim at Ayr next week in calmer waters.
“I was very pleased with him at Newcastle because it wasn’t easy,” continued Crawford.
“Starting a first timer up against seasoned handicappers is a big ask and to be honest he didn’t put a foot wrong.
“I would say the ground was really hard work that day and he doesn’t need it as testing as that, but he can handle it.
“We’ll try to find something similar to go again with him and try to bank up a wee bit more experience.
“I think eventually the further the better, but at this stage he doesn’t need three miles and two and a half will be fine.
“There’s a novices’ handicap up at Ayr I could run him in. I like going to Ayr, it’s a nice, big, fair track and good fences. Horses normally get a good education there and it’s definitely somewhere we will have a look at.”
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