Emitom may be given a first taste of Cheltenham in this month’s Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle as he bids to extend his unbeaten record by taking a step up in class and trip.
The two-and-a-half-mile Grade Two contest next week is one of two potential options for the five-year-old – along with the Listed Mansion Bet Sidney Banks Memorial Novices’ Hurdle at Huntingdon in February – after he made it four out of four under rules with victory at Lingfield on Tuesday.
Trainer Warren Greatrex said: “He might have an entry at Cheltenham a week Saturday for the Ballymore trial race, just to have a look.
“I don’t think it would come too quick, because I don’t think he did a lot at Lingfield on Tuesday.
“The Sidney Banks is probably favourite at the moment, though.”
Emitom was an easy, long odds-on winner at Lingfield – where he did nonetheless cause some early consternation with a blunder at the first hurdle, before going on to jump much better through the remainder of the race.
“We do need to do plenty of intensive schooling in between now and then,” added Greatrex, as he plans Emitom’s next step up the ladder.
“That’s my concern at the moment, his jumping.
“We need to get that sorted. He just needs to be sharper and better, because he would get lost in a big one at the Cheltenham Festival – (but) in a better race he might just be even better.”
A return trip to Kelso, and a shot at the totescoop6 Premier Kelso Novices’ Hurdle, could be on the cards for Encore Champs after the five-year-old returned to winning ways last time out at the Scottish Borders course.
Greatrex said: “He beat a 138-rated horse last time, and he did it well.
“Again, he is not the finished article – but he has done a lot wrong and still won. He is still quite gassy, but he does jump very well.
“Whether he is a Cheltenham horse this year, I don’t think so.
“We will look to step him up in class, and there is a Grade Two race just before Cheltenham back at Kelso. That could be the one – and then after he could be an Aintree horse.
“He has got a big future.”