JP McManus' leading Stan James Champion Hurdle contender My Tent Or Yours looks set to warm up for the mouth-watering opening day feature of next month's Cheltenham Festival in a 'bumper for jumpers' at Kempton on Sunday.
A narrow runner-up to Champagne Fever in the 2013 Supreme Novices' Hurdle, the handsome seven-year-old then ran away with an Aintree Grade Two and stretched his winning spree to three this term with Grade One victories in the Fighting Fifth and Christmas Hurdles.
He is a top-priced 5/1 for Cheltenham glory, but gruelling ground conditions prompted Nicky Henderson to swerve yesterday's Morebattle Hurdle at Kelso and tomorrow's Kingwell Hurdle at Wincanton.
After a spate of cross-channel abandonments, the British Horse Racing Authority revealed details of a bumper card for jumpers on Kempton's polytrack surface on Sunday. The seven-race initiative was supported with 303 entries yesterday.
"My Tent Or Yours is an intended runner," Henderson confirmed. "It's a lot better going (to Kempton) than running on heavy ground at Wincanton on Saturday."
Henderson's 2011 Gold Cup hero Long Run did make the journey to Kelso and he enjoyed a confidence-boosting Grand National preparation when seeing off Knockara Beau in decisive fashion under Sam Waley-Cohen at odds of 2/5. It was his first triumph since securing back-to-back wins in the King George in 2012.
"I was very happy with him, it was job done," Henderson said afterwards.
"He jumped well and we'll see about Cheltenham. I wouldn't rule it out, but I wouldn't say he's going there. The National is his principal objective and if we think he's best going there fresh, then we'll not run him again before."
There was an Irish success in the Kelso bumper for Larne's in-form Crawford brothers, Stuart and Steven. Knocklayde Express was a well-supported 3/1 favourite on her debut and she rallied gamely for Steven to prevail by a head.
Tomorrow's Wincanton's programme has been reduced to an all-hurdle affair and it must still survive a 7.30 inspection on the day.
This afternoon's scheduled Sandown card and Sunday's Ffos Las meeting have both been cancelled.
Hopes for a resumption of domestic activity at Gowran Park tomorrow following the midweek losses of Clonmel and Thurles hinge on how much of the rainfall forecast for this evening materialises. The ground at the Kilkenny track is heavy and officials have suggested that such a deluge could prove ruinous, though their Navan counterparts are less worried about the threat to Sunday's card there.
"We could get anything between 11mm and 28mm of rain," suggested Gowran Clerk of the Course Paddy Graffin, "and if it's at the upper end I'd be worried."
Meanwhile, Philip Fenton's star novice hurdler The Tullow Tank looks set to step up in trip come the Festival after his owner Barry Connell confirmed that the Neptune Novices' Hurdle is his likely target.
"I was very happy with him, he ran to a similar level as he had done in his previous races," Connell said of the dual Grade One winner's defeat to Vautour on Sunday.
"At Leopardstown, especially so on Sunday, you can't let the leader get away as it can be very hard to make up ground. I'd say we're probably looking more towards the Neptune now given the way he finishes his races."
Connell added that his Gordon Elliot-trained King George VI Chase fourth Mount Benbulben would contest the Bobbyjo Chase at Fairyhouse on Saturday week: "He'll go for the Bobbyjo. I thought he ran okay in the King George. He made an error four out and without that, I think he would have finished third. If he goes to Cheltenham, it will be for the Ryanair or the Gold Cup."
In Meydan, Mick Halford and David Marnane have continued their tremendous recent Dubai form by plundering the first two places in a six-furlong Group Three. Both had saddled two winners apiece at this year's carnival prior to yesterday, when Halford's Shane Foley-ridden Russian Soul (15/2) got the better of Marnane's Jamesie in the sprint to claim a first prize of €419,000.