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Puffin Billy

Puffin Billy (right): could appear in the John Smith's Mersey Novices' Hurdle

  PICTURE: Alan Crowhurst/Getty Images  

Top novice Puffin Billy given Aintree option

PUFFIN BILLY could bid to return to winning ways in the John Smith's Mersey Novices' Hurdle at Aintree on his next start, according to trainer Oliver Sherwood.

The well-regarded five-year-old went four races without defeat before he was beaten nine lengths by Grade 1 winner Melodic Rendezvous on his penultimate outing at Exeter, after which he was found to have a foot infection.

He was given the go-ahead to return to action in the opening Supreme Novices' Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival earlier this month, in which he could manage only fifth behind Champagne Fever, and Sherwood said the Grade 2 contest at Aintree on April 6 could be his next port of call.

"Puffin Billy has come out of his run at Cheltenham really well and is A1," said Sherwood on Wednesday. "He will be given an entry for the John Smith's Mersey Novices' Hurdle over two and a half miles, but I can't confirm he is a definite runner."

The race could also feature sublime Cheltenham Festival winner The New One, and Sherwood added: "I want to look at the entries first as he also has the option of running at Cheltenham's April meeting, and I want to finish on a high note.

"I thought his run at Cheltenham was really encouraging. The Supreme was run in a time four seconds faster than the Champion Hurdle and it was probably the hottest novice hurdle of the week."

"He travelled into the race really well but he made that mistake and probably just lacked a bit of experience. He has also got to learn to relax a bit more in his races but that will come with experience.

"There has not been a decision about whether or not he goes chasing next season and I will think about that over the summer holidays."

Puffin Billy is rated a 16-1 chance by bet365 and Paddy Power for next year's Racing Post Arkle.

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