Trainer Philip Hobbs has announced that his staying hurdler Thyme Hill could now head straight to the Cheltenham festival after his photo-finish defeat to Paisley Park on Saturday in the Grade One Long Walk Hurdle.
The six year old gelding was remarkable last season winning three of his four contests in great style and showing a clear staying ability.
He started his life over hurdles at Chepstow in the Grade Two Persian War Novices Hurdle and seeing off some smart youngsters that have since gone on to frank that form including Grade One winner Fiddlerontheroof.
The gelding then went to Cheltenham in the Grade Two Ballymore Novices Hurdle and again put in a strong winning run to enhance his credentials in this division.
He was destined for big things off the back of his third in the Champion Bumper at Cheltenham last season and fulfilled his potential for the term when landing the Grade One Challow Hurdle at Newbury.
He was then sent back to Cheltenham in March for the Albert Bartlett Novices' Hurdle and although suffering his first defeat over hurdles, he was a narrow fourth in a very hot Grade One.
The form of that race has worked out with the first, second and third since coming out and winning on their seasonal debuts.
Coming out of novice company on seasonal debut many were apprehensive as to how Thyme Hill would handle taking seasoned staying horses on first time out, but he was superb landing the Grade Two Long Distance Hurdle at Newbury.
The gelding saw off strong challenges from McFabulous and Paisley Park that day and he was up against the latter again on Saturday in his bid for his second Grade One win of his career.
However, although looking the likely winner with 50 yards to go he was nabbed on the line by the likeable stayer and his trainer has now said he could next be seen heading straight to the festival in the Grade One Stayers' Hurdle, with the Cleeve Hurdle before that not being entirely ruled out but looking less likely than before.
(Credit ATR) “We have to do the right thing by the horse,” Hobbs said.
“Thyme Hill is not the most robust physically, although a lot better than last season, and I would think he’ll go straight to the Cheltenham Festival – although that is not written in stone.
“The Cleeve Hurdle is a possibility, but we’ll have to see.“Winning the Stayers’ Hurdle is the objective and getting him there in the best condition will probably mean missing the Cleeve, but that is not written in stone yet.
“He’s very exciting, because up to now he’s been very sound and has a very good attitude. He’s a very good horse and we’re lucky to have him.”