Long run is Festival first for Collins
Tracey Collins will have her first ever Cheltenham Festival runner his month through Loch Long.
Collins, who trains on the Curragh, is much better known for her exploits on the Flat, first through assisting her late father Con and then for achievements under her own name through the likes of Dandy Man and Pencil Hill.
Loch Long won several times last summer but was set some pretty stiff tasks, faring best when finishing third to subsequent Irish Leger winner Alandi in a Listed race at Fairyhouse.
He was beaten 24 lengths by Sea The Stars in the Irish Champion Stakes and was a similar distance behind Fame And Glory in the Irish Derby.
His hurdling campaign started off with two apparently ordinary runs at Leopardstown and Gowran Park but Collins believes his latest effort, when 17 lengths second to JCB Triumph Hurdle favourite Alaivan in a Grade Two at Fairyhouse, was much more like it.
Collins has made entries in both the Fred Winter Juvenile Novices' Handicap Hurdle and the Triumph itself.
"He's entered in the two races and definitely goes, but we haven't made a decision on which race," she said.
"The last run was much better and far more like the ability he has showed at home. He was nearly brought down in the maiden at Leopardstown and we just can't explain the run at Gowran, it was nothing like him.
"I'm 90pc Flat, I just have a few jumpers, but you always want an opportunity to be at the biggest meetings like Royal Ascot and Cheltenham."
Sam Thomas is looking forward to getting the leg up on Tricky Trickster in the totesport Cheltenham Gold Cup. Thomas has already tasted Gold Cup glory having partnered Denman to success in 2008 but he will be ridden by champion jockey Tony McCoy this time around.
Tricky Trickster is seemingly Paul Nicholls' third string behind dual winner Kauto Star and Denman but Thomas is confident he can give a good account, and he did take full advantage of the latter fluffing his lines in the Aon.
"I'm very much looking forward to it and I think he's a cracking ride," he said.
"Obviously whatever you run in the race it's going to be very difficult to beat the favourite (Kauto Star) as he looks to be as good as ever at the moment.
"But I'm absolutely thrilled to be riding Tricky Trickster as he jumped very well last time and really picked up in the straight.
"It's a very open race if you take the favourite out so I'd definitely be very hopeful we can finish in the first four."