Monks to go straight to Festival
NOEL Meade is set to skip the Deloitte Novice Hurdle on February 12 with his exciting prospect Monksland and instead aim straight for the Cheltenham Festival.
Winner of all his three starts under Rules, the five-year-old won the Slaney Novice Hurdle at Naas last time out, opening his account in graded company without coming under pressure.
That day he had Dessie Hughes' Lyreen Legend immediately behind him, with the form being franked as the runner-up chased home Willie Mullins' impressive prospect Boston Bob last weekend.
"I don't think he's going to run in the Deloitte, we're looking at going straight to Cheltenham," said Meade. "I've been very happy with him since Naas, I just haven't spoken to his owner for a bit to confirm it.
"I've always thought he'd be happier on better ground but he seems to have handled soft ground well enough.
"It can be a danger expecting them to improve for better ground, so I'm certainly not going to say he doesn't handle it soft.
"We've got other entries in the Deloitte, but we haven't firmed up plans yet. The likes of Formidableopponent and Il Fenomeno are under consideration but Il Fenomeno might run this weekend (in the Moscow Flyer Novice Hurdle).
"If he doesn't run this weekend he'll run in the Deloitte."
Thornton eyes return
Robert Thornton hopes to return to race-riding on February 14.
Alan King's stable jockey broke his upper right arm in a fall from Western Whisky at Hereford on December 11 and needed surgery to repair the injury.
Thornton visited consultant Richard Keys at the Manor Hospital in Oxford who gave him the green light to return.
"The consultant said I can return on February 14," said Thornton. "I'm really looking forward to getting back (the way Alan King's horses are running).
"Dr (Michael) Turner (chief medical officer of BHA) still has to agree but I can't see any reason why he'd say no."