Osana to run at Navan ahead of Arkle tilt
Osana is set for one more run before taking his place among the entries for the Irish Independent Arkle Challenge Trophy.
Now with Edward O'Grady, Osana is one of 47 potential runners pencilled in for the two-mile novice championship on the first day of the Cheltenham Festival on March 16.
He was second to Katchit in the 2008 Champion Hurdle when trained by David Pipe and, after moving to O'Grady this season, he won twice over fences at Navan before filling the runner-up spot behind Sizing Europe in the Bord Na Mona Novice Chase at Leopardstown.
Michael Goodbody, racing manager to Osana's owner Thomas Barr, said: "Osana is very much on course for the Arkle. We are planning to run him in the Grade Two Flyingbolt Novice Chase at Navan on February 14, which will be his final prep before the Festival.
"I don't think you can complain about his first season over fences so far; whether he is good enough to win at Cheltenham is a bit of an unknown, but he is a tough, consistent horse.
"Edward has been pleased with how he has taken to chasing, and I think the faster pace and bigger field of a championship race, especially at Cheltenham, will play to his strengths.
"We knew Sizing Europe was the horse to beat in this division before we took him on at Leopardstown, and I don't think that much has changed since then.
"Cheltenham has been our objective for quite some time and we have been building him up for March. He will come on a lot for his run at Navan, and hopefully we can try and turn the form around at the Festival."
Captain Cee Bee, who fell at the last when travelling very well against Sizing Europe at Leopardstown, is in the Arkle mix alongside his compatriot.
The entries also include eight from the Willie Mullins yard, including Cousin Vinny and Mikael D'Haguenet.
The home team is led by Paul Nicholls' Tataniano, the Henrietta Knight-trained Somersby and a whole bevy of contenders from Nicky Henderson's Seven Barrows stable, headed by the outstanding French import Long Run and Mad Max, the recent Kempton winner.
Henderson also has the unbeaten chaser Riverside Theatre, owned in a partnership by Irish actor James Nesbitt.
"All is going well with Riverside Theatre at home and he's not going to run again before the Arkle. I think that he wants to be very fresh," said Henderson. "Mad Max is also in the Arkle and he'll have another run obviously, but where I don't know at the moment."
Somersby had an option at Doncaster this weekend but he is now set to go to Hereford on Sunday due to the availability of Tony McCoy.
"I think that he's running on Sunday at Hereford," said Knight.
"He always goes very well at home. I chose Hereford to get a run into him before Cheltenham, but also to get AP McCoy because he can go there."
Irish Independent Arkle Challenge Trophy, Paddy Power bet: 4-1 Captain Cee Bee, 5-1 Sizing Europe, 7-1 Somersby, 8-1 Tataniano, 10-1 Mikael D'Haguenet, 12-1 Long Run, Riverside Theatre, Sports Line, 14-1 Osana, 16-1 An Cathaoir Mor, Mad Max, 25s bar.