Gavin Cromwell expects to learn more about Espoir D’Allen’s potential ambitions after he runs in the Limestone Lad Hurdle at Naas on Sunday.
The son of Voix Du Nord was the star juvenile hurdler in Ireland in the first half of last season, winning his first four starts before disappointing at the inaugural Dublin Racing Festival at Leopardstown.
Espoir D’Allen missed the rest of the campaign, but has returned seemingly better than ever this term – winning Grade Three prizes at Naas and Limerick respectively – and he will likely be a warm order to complete his hat-trick this weekend.
Cromwell said: “He has a penalty to carry, and it will be his first time going up against older horses, so that is a little bit of an unknown.
“But he seems in good nick at home, and Sunday will tell us more about where we’re going with him.”
Espoir D’Allen is a best-priced 25-1 for the Unibet Champion Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival in March, a race for which his owner JP McManus also has the ante-post favourite in dual winner Buveur D’Air.
Cromwell added: “We’re just taking it one step at a time.
“The owner obviously has Buveur D’Air. He does have a Champion Hurdle entry, but we’ll see what happens on Sunday before we start thinking about that.”
Espoir D’Allen concedes 7lb to each of his four rivals, including a former winner of the Punchestown Champion Hurdle and the Irish St Leger in the Willie Mullins-trained Wicklow Brave.
Gordon Elliott is hoping for a bold show from Tombstone, who outran his huge odds when third behind Sharjah in the Ryanair Hurdle at Leopardstown last month.
“He ran a cracker last time and he’s been in good form since that run,” said Elliott.
“At the weights he doesn’t look badly treated, and I hope he can run to the level of form he did at Leopardstown – although I’d say Gavin’s horse will be hard to beat.”
Jessica Harrington’s mare Forge Meadow and Jarob from Gearoid O’Loughlin’s yard are the other contenders.