Colin Tizzard believes Kilbricken Storm is the “forgotten horse” in the Sun Racing Stayers’ Hurdle at Cheltenham.
The eight-year-old was a shock winner of the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle at last year’s Festival, and proved that effort was no fluke when only narrowly denied by Next Destination and Delta Work at Punchestown the following month.
The current campaign has not gone to script, as he scrambled home when odds-on for his chasing debut at Ffos Las before finishing out with the washing when stepped up in grade at Newbury in early December.
Kilbricken Storm has not been seen in competitive action since, but Tizzard reports his charge in rude health for his return to the smaller obstacles at Prestbury Park.
Speaking in front of the assembled media at his yard on Monday, Tizzard said: “He is a bit of a forgotten horse, but he was very good when he worked at Wincanton last Monday with Elixir De Nutz and Master Debonair and Native River. For a three-miler, he was right up beside them and was brilliant.
“We were going novice-chasing this season. First time out he was okay and then second time out he ran no sort of race. He had to have six weeks off – but ever since we have had him back, he has been straightforward.
“People can crab his performance at Cheltenham last year, but he won it quite easily.
“He was good at Wincanton the other day. We took six up there, and he was the one you would take out of it.
“He came out of that gallop as fresh as a button.”
Kilbricken Storm will be joined by stablemate West Approach, who has chased home Stayers’ Hurdle favourite Paisley Park on his last two outings in the Long Walk at Ascot and the Cleeve Hurdle at Cheltenham.
“When he was chasing he would just frighten himself over fences – he would jump too high and lose ground,” said Tizzard.
“Since we switched him back to hurdles we’ve twice had a go at Paisley Park. We got quite close to him at Ascot, and at Cheltenham we were not quite so close, but we did beat the rest.
“We have this idea that he doesn’t want to be in a crowd, but I don’t really agree with that. Next time we are going to find out where Paisley Park is and sit on his tail, and when he goes go with him.
“We’ve been in front of him the last twice, and he has done us properly for stamina. It would be lovely to sit and bring him late on – that would give him half a chance.”
Tizzard’s star performer in the novice-hurdling division this season has been Elixir De Nutz.
The five-year-old has won his last three starts – landing back-to-back victories at Cheltenham before claiming Grade One glory in the Tolworth Hurdle at Sandown.
He is a general 8-1 shot for the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle at Prestbury Park.
“We took him to Wincanton last Monday, and he was absolutely brilliant,” said the Dorset-based trainer.
“Looking at him now, we could have another away day again, but we may just trust ourselves.
“His form stands up to anybody’s in the race, I would say. He pulls quite hard, but he goes well from the front.
“We took him to Wincanton with Native River, Kilbricken Storm and Master Debonair, and they had a job to hold on to Elixir De Nutz – he went five lengths clear.
“He is a strong front-runner.”
Tizzard is in two minds where to run Vision Des Flos following his triumph in the National Spirit Hurdle at Fontwell on Sunday – but is favouring a tilt at the Champion Hurdle at this stage.
He said: “He has been a lovely horse, and if he hadn’t unseated Tom Scudamore in his first novice chase I’m sure he would have been chasing now. We decided he was only five at the time, so we would run him in all the big two and two-and-a-half-mile hurdle races.
“He travelled supremely well on Sunday, and the second horse (If The Cap Fits) could have been entered in the Champion Hurdle under different circumstances.
“He travels well enough to go two miles, and I’m sure the Champion Hurdle will be run at a frantic pace. We wouldn’t be afraid of running him on the pace, but there are four or five at least that are higher rated.
“He is 12-1 for the Coral Cup, but it is a decision we don’t need to make today. We might at the aim at the clouds a bit.”