Howard hopes 'Escape' is Grade One calibre
Aidan Howard is hoping Winter Escape can catapult him into the big time when he tackles Grade One company for the first time at next month's Dublin Racing Festival.
A Grade Two winner over hurdles two years ago when trained by Alan King, Winter Escape bids for a four-timer at Leopardstown having excelled over fences with back-to-back Grade Threes to his name.
The eight-year-old is Howard's first recruit from JP McManus - he also pre-trains for the powerful Limerick owner - and holds entries in the Frank Ward Solicitors Arkle Novice Chase (2m1f) and the Flogas Novice Chase (2m5f) with ground ultimately set to decide his final target.
"He's very good, and I'm very happy with him since Punchestown. What he goes for in Leopardstown depends on the ground - he definitely wants an ease and might not even go if it is dry," the Curragh handler said.
"If he gets an ease he is more likely to go for the 2m5f Grade One (Flogas). He has a long way to go to get to the top. But he deserves his chance in this company and we hope he is a Grade One horse."
The weights and entries for the five handicaps at the Foxrock track have also thrown up some interesting candidates with Charles Byrnes eyeing back-to-back victories in the €125,000 Ladbrokes Hurdle with last year's winner Off You Go (11-5).
The highly progressive and unexposed Wonder Laish (11-6) is another intriguing challenger for the Limerick trainer while Liz Doyle is also out for a repeat with last year's victor Last Goodbye (10-13) in the €125,000 Abbey International Leopardstown Handicap Chase, where Noel Meade's recent Grade Two scorer Tout Est Permis tops the weights (11-10).