Olly Murphy has not totally ruled out a crack at the Unibet Champion Hurdle with Thomas Darby.
The Wilmcote handler is having second thoughts over running last year’s Supreme runner-up in the Cheltenham Festival feature having initially dismissed the idea following his successful return to hurdles at Ascot last weekend.
Having failed to fire in two starts over fences this season, Thomas Darby bounced back to form upped to an extended two miles and three furlongs in a Grade Three contest at the Berkshire track.
Murphy said: “Thomas Darby has come out of Ascot really well and he is now a 158-rated hurdler, so there are not a lot of options for him.
“I am certain that he wants two and a half miles now and I think the Aintree race is absolutely made for him, but I will keep him in the Champion Hurdle.
“If the Champion Hurdle was over two and a half, he would be going straight there, but it’s not.
“Over two miles, I think it puts his jumping under pressure, but then he did finish second in last year’s Supreme.”
Although not ruling out a Champion Hurdle bid with Thomas Darby, the Grade Two Netbet Casino National Spirit Hurdle at Fontwell on February 23 is likely to be his next port of call.
He said: “I’d probably say the plan is to go to Fontwell for the National Spirit next. He was off the bridle a long way out at Ascot and he stayed on well.
“The National Spirit is worth a lot of money and he is only a young horse – we have to keep in mind the bigger picture with him.
“I’ve always believed in this horse.”
Murphy has warned Brewin’upastorm is far from certain to make his first start after a setback in the Grade Two Kingmaker Novices’ Chase at Warwick on February 8.
The seven-year-old, who is as short as 10-1 for the Arkle at the Cheltenham Festival, has not been sighted since making it two from two over fences at Taunton in November.
Murphy said: “It will be touch and go if I have him ready for Warwick. I won’t be going there if he is 75 per cent.
“If I don’t get him there, he will have a run round in a novice at a little country track, just to get a bit more experience.”