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Supreme Novices' Hurdle: High Definition still in Festival contention despite Leopardstown mishap

High Definition unseated jockey J J Slevin when challenging hot favourite for the lead at Leopardstown on Sunday; that hasn't put off trainer Joseph O'Brien, who is still keen on running in the Cheltenham Festival curtain-raiser

High Definition is set to miss the Epsom Derby
Image: High Definition could still run at the Cheltenham Festival

A tilt at the Sky Bet Supreme Novices' Hurdle is still on the cards for High Definition, despite his first foray into Grade One company over hurdles ending in disappointment at Leopardstown on Sunday.

A high-class performer and one-time Derby favourite when trained by Aidan O'Brien on the Flat, he made a seamless transition to the National Hunt sphere when making his debut for Joseph O'Brien at the Dublin track over Christmas - taking a maiden hurdle by a going-away four and a quarter lengths.

The form of that result got a boost when Jetara finished second in a mares' Grade Three recently, while the sixth, Diverge, bolted up by 23 lengths at Punchestown on his next start and meant that High Definition reported for Grade One duty at the Dublin Racing Festival as the biggest danger to the then unbeaten Facile Vega.

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Attempting to go stride-for-stride with the 4-9 favourite from the front, the son of Galileo only got as far as the fourth flight before unseating jockey JJ Slevin in a race that also saw the Willie Mullins' hotpot blow out and the Supreme market turned on its head.

However, the five-year-old is reported to be none the worse for the experience and the Cheltenham Festival opener remains the likely next destination for High Definition providing he proves his well-being over the next few weeks.

"He has come out of the race well and we'll see how he is over the next couple of weeks, but we're potentially looking at going straight to the Supreme with him from here," said O'Brien.

Facile Vega jumped smartly on hurdles debut at Fairyhouse
Image: Facile Vega jumped smartly on hurdles debut at Fairyhouse but was beaten at the Dublin Racing Festival

"We'll see how he is before confirming that decision, but if he was to go to Cheltenham that would be the race."

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With no plans for another run before Cheltenham, High Definition could head to Prestbury Park with just the one completion over hurdles under his belt.

But his handler is not concerned about a lack of experience and believes his jumping will stand up to the test of a Festival Grade One.

He continued: "I wouldn't be too worried about that (jumping experience). It would have been nice to get a nice clear round in Leopardstown, but I don't think he did anything wrong and I was very pleased with how he jumped the second and third hurdle."

All options open for Banbridge

O'Brien also looks to have an ace card to play in the novice chase division at Cheltenham in the form of last year's Martin Pipe winner Banbridge.

His Festival success in 2022 came over an intermediate trip, but he showed his adaptability when returning to Prestbury Park to land the Arkle Trial over two miles in November.

Having stayed on strongly to grab second in the Irish Arkle at the weekend, the Owning Hill trainer admits the sensible thing could be to return to two and a half miles for the Turners Novices' Chase next month.

Banbridge wins easily in the Arkle Trial at Cheltenham
Image: Banbridge wins easily in the Arkle Trial at Cheltenham

But the impressive nature of Mighty Potter's win at Leopardstown means all options are being kept open for now.

"He stayed on all the way up to the line. He missed the last which probably cost him a few lengths as well, but we were very pleased with the run in what was an extremely hot novice chase," said O'Brien, reflecting on Banbridge's Dublin Racing Festival outing.

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"We will keep his options open in both the two-mile and middle-distance novice chase (at Cheltenham) and a decision will be made closer to the time.

"From watching the race in Leopardstown it would suggest it makes sense to go up in trip, but then that looks a very hot race as well so we'll keep our options open and a plan will be made after we've spoken to Ronnie (Bartlett, owner) closer to the time."

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