Trainer Matthew Smith is ready to roll the dice and let Ronald Pump line up for the Paddy Power Stayers’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival.
The seven-year-old looked an exciting recruit to the chasing ranks when he made a winning debut over fences at Fairyhouse in November – but after he finished a distant second in the Drinmore on his next start, Smith sent his charge back over the smaller obstacles.
Ronald Pump ran a huge race when narrowly failing to reel in Treacysenniscorthy in a Pertemps Qualifier at Leopardstown over Christmas – and having since disappointed back over fences at Naas, his chasing career has been put on hold for the time being.
Smith’s stable star holds entries in the Pertemps Final and the Stayers’ Hurdle this month – but after being rated 6lb higher by the British handicapper than he is in Ireland, he is set to take on Paisley Park at Grade One level.
Smith said: “I’d say we’ll go for the Stayers’ Hurdle. I’ve had a chat with the lads, and they’re happy to give it a go.
“The British handicapper gave him a mark of 156, which makes him top-weight in the Pertemps. He’d have to give a lot of weight to good horses if he ran in that – he’d give 16lb to the favourite, Phoenix Way.
“Paisley Park is obviously an exceptional horse and he’ll be very hard to beat in the Stayers’, but I’d say the Pertemps would be just as tough for him (Ronald Pump) – carrying all that weight.
“When you look through the Stayers’, Summerville Boy could be the second-favourite, and we’re actually rated the same as him.”
Ronald Pump failed to fire when a well-beaten fourth behind National Hunt Chase favourite Carefully Selected in a Grade Three novice chase on his latest appearance.
Smith added: “He didn’t run his race at all the last day, and we said after that we’d put chasing on hold and go back over hurdle.
“He seems to be back to himself now and is working well. He ran a huge race at Christmas to finish second to Treacysenniscorthy, giving him nearly two stone – and he has since won a valuable race at the Dublin Racing Festival, so the form looks good.
“In my mind, that was good enough run to let him take his chance in the Stayers’ Hurdle.
“Just to have a horse good enough to take to the Cheltenham Festival is great. We have nothing to lose really – and we just want to get him there in good health and we’ll see what happens.”