Burning Ambition may well be Festival-bound again after returning to action with a point-to-point win on his first start since he was the beaten Foxhunter favourite at Cheltenham last year.
Trainer Pierce Power hinted he may target the Aintree version this time round for the eight-year-old, who will nonetheless be entered at «all the Festivals».
Burning Ambition held off fellow classy hunter Fenno’s Storm to score by half a length under teenager Jack Hendrick in the novice riders’ race at Templenacarriga on Sunday.
Burning Ambition, ridden by Rob James, at Cheltenham in 2018
It proved an emotional victory for Power, who dedicated it to close friend Keith Dalton following his sudden death just after Christmas.
«Keith and I were great pals,» said Power.
«We worked at Ballydoyle together for a couple of years, and stayed friends ever since. He’ll be sadly missed by all of us — he was a great character.
«The horse won on Sunday, and it was only the previous Sunday that we buried Keith.
«It was nice that the horse was able to do something for him — I think he might have been looking down on us.»
Burning Ambition, a five-time pointing and hunter-chase winner from just seven starts before he finished eighth at Cheltenham, will be out again soon — as long as there is ease in the ground.
«It’ll bring him on a ton, because we left plenty on him to work on,» said Power.
«A hunter chase in Thurles could be next, but that’ll all be dictated by what the weather does.
«He’s so big — well over 17 hands — at this stage of the season you certainly won’t see him on any kind of ground that is quick or good anyway.
«We don’t want to do anything stupid to him.
«He’ll get an entry at all the Festivals, but we’re looking towards Aintree because the trip, ground and track should suit him ideally — a flat track and two miles, five furlongs.
«He jumps so well, so I hope he won’t mind the fences too much.
«I’d suppose you never know until they tackle them — but that’s the plan anyway.»
Power was full of praise for Burning Ambition’s 19-year-old winning jockey.
«Jack had schooled for me and he’s a smashing chap,» he said.
«He rides really well. He came out of William Codd’s place, so he had plenty of grounding.
«Jamie Codd recommended him to me — he’s a chap you’ll be hearing plenty more about.
«Jack said he was going so well that he let him fly on at (two out).
«He’s brilliant to jump, but I’d suppose at the back of the last he just got tired and blew up — which he was entitled to.»
— Press Association