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Trainer Harry Fry has a small but select team heading into next week’s Cheltenham Festival and he knows it’s going to be a case of hitting the ground running. Fry’s ‘leading light’ at the meeting is set to be Metier, who runs in the opening Supreme Novices’ Hurdle on Tuesday and the trainer appears confident he can prevent a record-extending win for Willie Mullins in the curtain raiser.
Rising profile for Tolworth hero
Formerly trained on the Flat in Ireland by Andy Slattery, where he was rated 90, Metier has been a sensation since joining Fry to commence his career over hurdles.
He returned from a year off with a decisive and easy victory at Newton Abbot in October (2m2½f, heavy) and supplemented that in further good style at Ascot (1m7½f, soft) in November.
Those efforts were enough to see Metier going off 7-4 favourite for the Grade 1 Tolworth Hurdle at Sandown (2m, heavy) in early January and he once more delivered a polished performance under Sean Bowen, drawing some 12 lengths clear of Shakem Up’arry to preserve his unbeaten record and cement his place in the Cheltenham novice hurdles’ picture.
Despite having won over 2m2½f at Newton Abbot on hurdles bow, Fry is aiming for the Festival curtain raiser over the minimum distance next week. That proven stamina for further will be an asset when he faces the Cheltenham hill.
Metier pleasing connections
Preparations are almost complete for Cheltenham and Fry was very happy with Metier in his homework last week. He’s attempting not to get carried away, but admits there’s proper excitement building for the Supreme now.
“He’s our leading light and he went very well on Thursday,” said the trainer of Metier’s latest work.
“We don’t want to get ahead of ourselves, but it was just what I hoped to see. The forecast is for unsettled weather in the middle of next week, and that should hopefully help us see a combination of good to soft and soft, and that would be perfect for him.”
At a general 6-1, Metier is behind only Appreciate It in the betting for the Cheltenham race.
The Willie Mullins-trained Appreciate It, second in the Champion Bumper last season, has impressively won a couple of Grade 1 races around Leopardstown since Christmas and brings crucial Festival form to the table for his record-breaking trainer, who already boasts six victories in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle.
He hasn’t perhaps been firmly tested just yet and Fry seems confident that Metier might be the one to ask those serious questions.
Fry with three more for the Festival
Alongside Metier, Fry hopes to have three further contenders in the Cotswolds. If The Cap Fits has been chasing this season but is being readied to go back over hurdles and take in the Stayers’ Hurdle, while teenager Unowhatimeanharry is likely to bid farewell to the Cheltenham arena with a run in the Pertemps Final.
The Close Brothers Mares’ Hurdle meanwhile is the aim for Whitehotchillifili on the opening afternoon of the meeting.
If The Cap Fits has generally run well this season despite failing to add to his defeat of Fiddlerontheroof at Ffos Las on debut in October.
He has previously run in a Cleeve Hurdle over the C&D and Fry suggests he could have place ambitions in the Stayers’ race.
“I’m leaning towards going back over hurdles with him,” Fry said. “He ran well behind Paisley Park in the Cleeve Hurdle last year and we know he’s a 160-plus horse over hurdles. That would put him in with an each way squeak.”