Boyne Hurdle: Blazing Khal storms to top of Stayers’ Hurdle market at Cheltenham Festival after winning return at Navan | Racing News

Blazing Khal moved to the head of ante-post lists for the Stayers’ Hurdle after making a successful return from a lengthy absence in the William Hill Boyne Hurdle at Navan.

The Charles Byrnes-trained seven-year-old won a couple of Grade Two novice events at Cheltenham in the autumn of 2021, but a subsequent injury kept him off the track for 428 days.

Byrnes suggested early in the new year his stable star was “50-50 at best” to make this year’s Cheltenham Festival – but having been pleased with his subsequent progress, he allowed him to make his comeback in Grade Two company at Navan.

Under a patient ride from the trainer’s son Philip Byrnes, the seven-year-old moved smoothly into contention from the home turn and shook off any rustiness to pull three lengths clear of the gallant Meet And Greet. Even-money favourite Saint Sam was a little disappointing in fifth.

Stayers’ Hurdle sponsors Paddy Power make Blazing Khal a 5/2 joint-favourite for the three-mile hurdling showpiece, along with Teahupoo. Coral cut the winner’s odds to 3/1 from 5/1.

Byrnes said: “It’s relief really with the young fella riding him and all. I thought he gave him a lovely ride and he settled grand for him.

“He’s definitely a very good horse. He was working well and doing a lot of work over the last few weeks. We did expect a big run, he was fairly straight.

“With him it’s day by day, but naturally we’ll be thinking of Cheltenham, of course. We’ve had so many false dawns with him. It’s just been little, niggly problems.

“The timing is not too bad, I suppose. We would have preferred to have him out before now, but it is what it is. We can go to Aintree if we don’t make Cheltenham.”

He added: “He was fairly fit today but naturally with race fitness you’d hope he’d come on again.

“You always have the bounce factor and ideally you’d want a second run, but it is what it is and we’re delighted to get him back.”

Hunters Yarn enters Supreme picture

Hunters Yarn further strengthened Willie Mullins’ potential hand for the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle at Cheltenham next month with an authoritative victory in Listed company at Navan.

The most successful trainer in Festival history already houses the ante-post favourite for the traditional curtain-raiser in Facile Vega, while his Leopardstown conqueror of last weekend Il Etait Temps and Impaire Et Passe are other high-class operators in the mix for the Closutton handler.

Three-time bumper winner Hunters Yarn was beaten at odds-on in his first two hurdle races, but made it third time lucky with an impressive display at Naas last month to earn himself a step up in grade.

Hunters Yarn and Paul Townend pull clear of American Mike at Navan
Hunters Yarn and Paul Townend pull clear of American Mike at Navan

American Mike, runner-up to Facile Vega in last season’s Champion Bumper at Cheltenham, was the 11/8 favourite to bounce back from a below-par effort at the track in the autumn, with Hunters Yarn a 3/1 shot in the hands of Paul Townend.

American Mike cut out much of the running in the I.N.H. Stallion Owners EBF Novice Hurdle, but was unable to resist the strong-travelling Hunters Yarn, who ultimately won comfortably by six lengths, with Imagine staying on for second and Inothewayurthinkin pipping American Mike to third.

Paddy Power reacted by cutting Hunters Yarn to 8/1 from 25s for the Supreme in their non-runner no bet market, while Coral offer 16s from 33/1 ante-post.

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