By Jon Lees
Highly-regarded hurdler Sebastopol’s participation in next month’s Unibet Greatwood Hurdle is “ground-dependent”, trainer Tom Lacey has warned.
The five-year-old has been made 9-1 favourite by the sponsor for the Cheltenham Grade Three race on the strength of a convincing first win over hurdles in a handicap at Wincanton earlier this month.
On what was only his third start over obstacles, the point-to-point and bumper winner scored a commanding seven-length success.
He had previously finished fourth, when favourite, behind subsequent Supreme Novices’ Hurdle runner-up Thomas Darby at Cheltenham and was a beaten at odds on next time on soft ground at Ayr in January this year.
If he lines up at Cheltenham, Sebastopol could take on a field comprising Grade One Punchestown winner Fusil Raffles and Welsh Champion Hurdle hero Monsieur Lecoq in a race whose recent roll of honour includes the likes of Old Guard, Menorah and Khyber Kim and further back Champion Hurdle winners Rooster Booster and Celtic Shot.
Lacey said: “It’s going to be very much ground dependent as to whether we have a go at it or not.
“It is all food for thought at this stage. We will see where we are nearer the time. He has come out of his race at Wincanton very well.”
Sebastopol was raised 10lb for his Wincanton success to a mark of 137, which leaves open the option of the gelding taking a less ambitious route.
“I thought the handicapper was very fair,” Lacey added.
“Sebastopol could go the softer route, and there is a 0-140 race at Huntingdon on November 12, and then you could look for a better pot in the spring.
“We think he is a top-of-the-ground horse, so we will plot our way as and when. He is potentially still well-handicapped.”