24 March 2022

Stage Star could be given Aintree opportunity

24 March 2022

Stage Star is not ruled out of an Aintree appearance after pulling up in the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival.

The gelding had three outings this season prior to the race and was victorious every time, taking a maiden and a novice before landing the Grade One Challow Novices’ Hurdle in convincing style.

Heading to the Festival unbeaten over hurdles as a result, the Paul Nicholls-trained six-year-old started as a 7-1 chance for the Ballymore as only Henry de Bromhead’s Journey With Me and eventual winner Sir Gerhard were more fancied.

Unrelenting rain had turned the going to soft before the contest and in testing conditions Stage Star strained against the early slow pace, pulling hard before making a mistake over the third-last and weakening as a result.

Paul Nicholls’ Stage Star (Adam Davy/PA) (PA Wire)

Ultimately pulled up by Harry Cobden, the bay is none the worse for the experience after walking home under his jockey.

“He’s fine, he came back fine. There were no issues with him, it just wasn’t his day at Cheltenham,” said Dan Downie, racing manager to the Owners Group syndicate.

“He was very keen and in that ground it was pretty clear fairly early on that it wasn’t going to work.

“Harry looked after him and made sure he didn’t have a hard time of it, and that’s the main thing.

“You certainly couldn’t judge him on that, he was beaten before the race really got serious so I think it is best to just draw a line under it and move on.”

Connections are open-minded as to whether to give him another outing this term and Aintree is under consideration, with the team also yet to decide if Stage Star will remain a hurdler next season or turn his hand to steeplechasing.

“We’re open minded really, he’s got an option at Aintree which we will have a good look at it but he won’t run unless we’re really happy with him,” he said.

“Again, we’re open minded (as to whether he goes chasing).

“The plan was for him to go chasing at some point, but I suppose it will depend on if he runs again and how he does. We’ll take a view over the summer, I should think.”

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