Puffin Billy has Aintree option

Puffin Billy could step up to two and a half miles at Aintree next week for the £60,000 Grade Two John Smith’s Mersey Novices’ Hurdle (1.45pm), the opening race on the final day of the John Smith’s Grand National meeting, Grand National Day, Saturday, April 6.

Oliver Sherwood’s charge was barely extended to win two bumpers and two novices’ hurdles, including a Grade Two at Ascot in December, but lost his unbeaten record when chasing home Melodic Rendezvous in a Listed contest at Exeter on February 10.

It subsequently transpired that the five-year-old had a foot infection but he bounced back with a promising effort at the Cheltenham Festival when finishing fifth in the William Hill Supreme Novices’ Hurdle, despite a bad mistake at the penultimate flight.

Sherwood revealed: “Puffin Billy has come out of his run at Cheltenham really well and is A1.

“He will be given an entry for the John Smith’s Mersey Novices’ Hurdle over two and a half miles but I can’t confirm he is a definite runner. I want to look at the entries first as he also has the option of running at Cheltenham’s April meeting and I want to finish on a high note.

“I thought his run at Cheltenham was really encouraging. The Supreme was run in a time four seconds faster than the Champion Hurdle and it was probably the hottest novice hurdle of the week.

“He travelled into the race really well but he made that mistake and probably just lacked a bit of experience. He has also got to learn to relax a bit more in his races but that will come with experience.

“There has not been a decision about whether or not he goes chasing next season and I will think about that over the summer holidays.”

Puffin Billy could clash with The New One, trained by Nigel Twiston-Davies, who bounced back from a shock defeat at Cheltenham in January with a devastating display in the Grade One Neptune Investment Management Novices’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival.

As well as the John Smith’s Mersey Novices’ Hurdle, Grand National Day also features the £120,000 Grade One Liverpool Hurdle (2.50pm) over an extended three miles and the highlight of the meeting, the £975,000 John Smith’s Grand National (4.15pm).

The 2013 John Smith’s Grand National meeting gets underway on Grand Opening Day, Thursday, April 4, and a mouth-watering seven-race card is likely to be star-studded courtesy of four Grade One contests. The meeting continues on Ladies’ Day, Friday, April 5, when Sprinter Sacre, Cue Card and Flemenstar could all clash in the £200,000 Grade One Melling Chase (3.05pm) over two and a half miles.

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