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Morebattle Hero, Duke of Navan, unlikely to Head to Cheltenham

2/15/2013 - Greystoke-based National Hunt trainer, Nicky Richards, is not one for sending his horses to the Cheltenham Festival unless he thinks they are 100 per cent ready, mentally and physically, for the challenge, writes Elliot Slater.

At this early stage of his career, the Cumbrian handler believes itís too soon to be risking recent brave Morebattle Hurdle winner, Duke of Navan, in the breakneck pace of the Grade 1 William Hill Supreme Novices Hurdle on March 12, and seems decided upon on a schedule offering less taxing competition for the rest of this season.

Currently on offer at 33/1 in the horse betting market for the 2013 Cheltenham Festival, Duke of Navan has now won three of his four starts so far over hurdles.

He met with his only defeat when running well to finish a three-and-a-half length fourth behind the smart Dodging Bullets in the Grade 2 Opus Energy Novices Hurdle on only his second attempt over timber, having won on his hurdling bow at Newcastle a few weeks earlier.

The strapping son of Presenting subsequently had his third outing over hurdles in heavy ground at Kelso in January and carried his winnersí penalty with distinction, as he readily accounted for Big Water by three lengths.

Returning to the Borders track for the Morebattle Hurdle on Valentineís Day, Duke of Navan was rated 17lbs inferior to the favourite, Any Given Day, on official figures, so racing off level weights appeared to have plenty on his plate.

Patiently ridden by Brian Harding, Richardsí charge tracked the Donald McCain-trained favourite through from the second last before quickening into the lead at the final flight. He then stayed on well on the long Kelso run-in to score by two-and-a-half lengths.

Should he take in the Aintree Festival in April, Duke of Navan would definitely be one to keep on the right side.

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