Despite the weekend blip, high definition is still in the running for Cheltenham.
After being unseated at Leopardstown on Sunday, the former Derby favourite none the worse.
High Definition will still compete in the Sky Bet Supreme Novices’ Hurdle, even though his first attempt at Grade One company over hurdles was unsuccessful at Leopardstown on Sunday.
He made a seamless transition to the National Hunt sphere when making his debut for Joseph O’Brien at the Dublin track over Christmas, winning a maiden hurdle by a going-away four and a quarter lengths. He was a high-class performer and was once a Derby favorite when trained by Aidan O’Brien on the Flat.
High Definition reported for Grade One duty at the Dublin Racing Festival as the biggest threat to the then-unbeaten Facile Vega when Jetara finished second in a mares’ Grade Three. Diverge, the sixth, bolted up by 23 lengths at Punchestown on his next start, giving that result a boost.
In a race that also saw the Willie Mullins’ hotpot blow out and the Supreme market turned on its head, the son of Galileo only got as far as the fourth flight before unseating jockey JJ Slevin. In an attempt to go stride-for-stride with the 4-9 favorite from the front, the horse only got as far as the fourth flight.
The Cheltenham Festival opener remains the likely next destination for High Definition, provided that the five-year-old proves that he is in good health over the next few weeks. However, the child is said to be unharmed by the experience.
“He has come out of the race well and we’ll see how he is over the next couple of weeks, but we’re potentially looking at going straight to the Supreme with him from here,” said O’Brien.
“We’ll see how he is before confirming that decision, but if he was to go to Cheltenham that would be the race.”
High Definition may arrive at Prestbury Park with only one completion over hurdles under his belt because he has no plans for another race before Cheltenham. However, his handler is confident that his jumping will stand up to a Festival Grade One test and is not concerned about his lack of experience.
He continued: “I wouldn’t be too worried about that (jumping experience). It would have been nice to get a nice clear round in Leopardstown, but I don’t think he did anything wrong and I was very pleased with how he jumped the second and third hurdle.”
In the novice chase division at Cheltenham, O’Brien appears to also have an ace card to play in the form of the Martin Pipe winner Banbridge.
He won the Festival in 2022 on an intermediate course, but in November, when he returned to Prestbury Park to win the Arkle Trial over two miles, he demonstrated his adaptability.
The Owning Hill trainer acknowledges that returning to two and a half miles for the Turners Novices’ Chase next month may be the sensible thing to do after staying on strongly to take second in the Irish Arkle. However, considering Mighty Potter’s impressive victory at Leopardstown, all options are being left open for the time being.
“He stayed on all the way up to the line. He missed the last which probably cost him a few lengths as well, but we were very pleased with the run in what was an extremely hot novice chase,” said O’Brien, reflecting on Banbridge’s Dublin Racing Festival outing.
“We will keep his options open in both the two-mile and middle-distance novice chase (at Cheltenham) and a decision will be made closer to the time.
“From watching the race in Leopardstown it would suggest it makes sense to go up in trip, but then that looks a very hot race as well so we’ll keep our options open and a plan will be made after we’ve spoken to Ronnie (Bartlett, owner) closer to the time.”
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