Hughie Morrison has warned leading ante-post contender Not So Sleepy is not guaranteed to run in the Betfair Hurdle at Newbury on Saturday.
The East Ilsley handler is considering swerving the valuable Grade Three prize in favour of next month’s Unibet Champion Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival.
After running out an easy winner on his return to hurdles at Ascot in November, Not So Sleepy followed up with an impressive victory back at the track in the Betfair Exchange Trophy before Christmas.
Morrison said: “He has got to school well on Tuesday or we might not run him. We have always been a possible or probably, and I’ve tried to be fairly open like that.
“Everything needs to be right and if there is any doubt, we will wait for Cheltenham.
“He is a horse that can give a negative quite easily. If Cheltenham was not down the road, we would not be having this discussion.
“He will go to Cheltenham if he is in one piece and in reasonable form, regardless what happens on Saturday.”
Although Not So Sleepy, who would pick up a £100,000 bonus if he added to his Ascot success at Newbury, has had a hefty rise in the ratings, Morrison feels he still has plenty to prove to be a live contender in the Champion Hurdle.
Morrison added: “He has had a huge hike of 17lb, but he won an £85,000 race – he deserved it.
“It could well be proved they have over done it this Saturday, but 144 is not a huge rating for top hurdlers.
“He has got a lot to prove this weekend. The form book makes it look as though we have a stone to find (to be a Champion Hurdle horse).
“You don’t win a Dee Stakes (on the Flat) as a three-year-old unless you have a bit of class. Maybe he has got his confidence back.”
Although Not So Sleepy still has a way to go to be considered among the best hurdlers in the country, Morrison believes his jumping has taken a big step forward from 12 months ago.
He said: “I always hoped he might be like this (over hurdles). We were slightly disappointed when he got beat first time out last year, then he won second time (out) and the third time I was disappointed.
“He has had some good days, but not as many as his ability would warrant.
“His jumping is improving all the time. He was very quick at his hurdles when he schooled before he ran at Ascot.
“It was very deep that day and he got from A to B. I didn’t think he jumped that well, but when I came back and watched it, he did jump well.”
While Morrison is yet to make a final decision on Not So Sleepy’s participation at the weekend, he is confident the ground will be in his favour should he run.
He said: “A flat course like that might not suit him. He might be better off with some undulations and I think Cheltenham might suit him better.
“He has won twice on heavy. You would think good ground jumping, which would be softish Flat ground, would be ideal.”
Gumball has been left at the head of the weights following for the confirmation stage, for which 30 stand their ground.
Nigel Twiston-Davies could look to improve his good record in the race with Haydock winner Stolen Silver, while Sir Valentine is another lightly-raced possible for the Naunton yard.
Harambe, Thebannerkingrebel, Whoshotthesherrif and Quoi De Neuf have also been left in.
The one remaining Irish possible is the Willie Mullins-trained Ciel De Neige.
Nicky Henderson is another trainer who targets the race and could run Mill Green or Never Adapt.