Byrnes hoping Pittoni can rise to Cheltenham occasion
Charles Byrnes is hoping his progressive Pittoni can make his mark at Cheltenham on Saturday.
A Grade One-winning youngster at the start of 2010 but essentially disappointing during the rest of last season, Byrnes placed him to land a minor event at Naas in October before managing third in last month's Morgiana Hurdle behind Thousand Stars.
The Limerick handler has now put the prestigious StanJames.com International Hurdle on his agenda. "The plan is for Pittoni to travel over," said Byrnes. "I thought that he ran up to his handicap mark in the Morgiana Hurdle.
"He won a Grade One as a juvenile but it wasn't the greatest race in the world and he's probably up to being a Grade Two hurdler. He's a bit behind the likes of Thousand Stars.
"His form has mainly been on heavy or soft ground but I'm sure that he will have no problem with good going and he heads to Cheltenham in good order."
The 10 entries for the International are headed by last year's winner Menorah, which came a cropper when looking set to make a winning debut over fences at Exeter. Trainer Philip Hobbs is dropping him back to hurdles as he considers his options.
He faces two rising stars in the hurdling division in Paul Nicholls' Greatwood winner Brampour and Nicky Henderson's Punchestown Festival hero Grandouet, the recent Haydock winner which has been installed the 11/4 ante-post market leader by the sponsors.
Donald McCain's Overturn is at the top of his game after Coral Hurdle and Fighting Fifth successes, while last season's Champion Hurdle sixth, Clerk's Choice, is also entered.
At Fontwell yesterday, Tony McCoy demonstrated his powers of recovery as he shrugged off a crashing fall to ride the winner of the following race.
The 16-times champion crashed out when Nicky Henderson's State Benefit made an almighty blunder at the third last in the novice chase, but McCoy took the ride on Henderson's 5/4 favourite Lets Get Serious in the next and won.
Bryan Cooper revealed yesterday he hopes to be back in action at the end of next week, having been sidelined with a broken wrist since November 16.