Festival winner City Island to be targeted at Stayers' following change of plan
Ballymore Novices' Hurdle winner City Island's chasing career has been put on hold and Martin Brassil's stable star is now being aimed at the Stayers' Hurdle.
The lightly raced seven-year-old did not jump fluently on his belated chasing debut at Leopardstown over Christmas and, although his jumping improved when he finished 24 lengths adrift of Carefully Selected at Punchestown this month, connections feel he will be better served tackling Paisley Park over hurdles at Cheltenham.
Speaking on Tuesday, his trainer said: "We're very happy with him since his run at Punchestown. We were late getting him out over fences and considering the way the season has gone for him, we've decided that we're going to Cheltenham with him for the Stayers' Hurdle.
"He'll be stepping up in trip but I don't see that as being a problem to him, he's looked as though he'll be better going up in distance."
The Sean and Bernardine Mulryan-owned performer is a general 16-1 for the Stayers' Hurdle and had been favourite for the Close Brothers Novices' Handicap Chase, as well as being listed in the other Grade 1 novice chase markets.
The Curragh handler added: "The season just crept up on us and we just got going a little late over fences, Leopardstown wasn't an ideal start for him. We would have had to fit in one more run over fences before going to Cheltenham if he was running over fences, so instead we'll go for the Stayers' Hurdle."
Brassil, who trained Cyrname and Frodon's Grade 1-winning sire Nickname to win on nine occasions from 2005 to 2008, will have another runner at the festival in the shape of Longhouse Poet, third to Envoi Allen in the Lawlor's of Naas Novice Hurdle.
"Longhouse Poet is in good form and he'll go straight to Cheltenham for either the Ballymore or Albert Bartlett," said Brassil.
"He ran well at Naas last time and his form is strong. The horse he beat in his bumper, Monkfish, has shown that form in a good light so we're looking forward to seeing what he can do."
Longhouse Poet is priced between 16-1 and 25-1 for the Ballymore Novices' Hurdle, a race sponsored by his owner and won by City Island last year, while he is a general 25-1 for the Albert Bartlett Novices' Hurdle.
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