FINALE Juvenile Hurdle hero Comfort Zone will have one more run before a possible tilt at the Triumph Hurdle, trainer Joseph O’Brien has revealed.
The Churchill gelding was a neck superior to Dixon Cove in the Grade 2 event at Chepstow over Christmas.
The JP McManus-owned four-year-old had previously finished third at Fairyhouse to Triumph Hurdle favourite Lossiemouth, who subsequently franked that form by winning a Grade 2 at Leopardstown on Boxing Day.
The Owning Hill handler is keen to head to the Dublin Racing Festival at Leopardstown, with the €150,000 Grade 1 Spring Juvenile Hurdle on February 4th a likely landing spot.
O’Brien said: “It was a good performance at Chepstow and he has come back from that race well.
“He has an option of going to the Dublin Racing Festival in Ireland and he has an option of going to Cheltenham, but we are considering the Dublin Racing Festival and then, after that, we will look at further plans from there. It is a long time from Christmas to the Triumph Hurdle.”
Home By The Lee, who sauntered to a three-length success in the Jack De Bromhead Christmas Hurdle at Leopardstown, has taken the Grade 1 contest in his stride, according to O’Brien.
He will head straight to Cheltenham for the Paddy Power Stayers’ Hurdle in which he was beaten seven and a half lengths in sixth by Flooring Porter last year.
The Sean O’Driscoll-owned eight-year-old cruised to success over Bob Olinger on his seasonal return at Navan and travelled sweetly in beating Ashdale Bob over three miles on his next start.
O’Brien said: “He has had a very good season so far. The plan is to go straight for the Stayers’. He wasn’t beaten far in it last year and he does look a better horse this year, so hopefully he will go there with a live chance.
Another who will make a return to the Festival in March is Scarlet And Dove, who went down by just half a length to Elimay when third in the Mrs Paddy Power Mares’ Chase last year.
The Gigginstown House Stud-owned nine-year-old overturned the form with that rival in no uncertain terms when romping to a 15-length success in a Grade 2 at Punchestown in April.
She showed her well-being with a cosy success in a Grade 3 contest over two miles and five furlongs at Fairyhouse on New Year’s Day. O’Brien is set to run her once more before Cheltenham.
He said: “She’ll have another run in Ireland, in the Opera Hat, which is a mares’ chase at Naas (February 11th), and from there she will go straight on to Cheltenham.