Relegate, winner of the 2018 Champion Bumper at the Cheltenham Festival, is set to return to action at the Dublin Racing Festival, according to new trainer Colm Murphy.
The seven-year-old carried all before her in her bumper season, winning at Punchestown, a Grade 1 at Leopardstown, and then the Cheltenham main event, but she failed to train on over hurdles last season.
Owner Paul McKeon, who sparked Murphy's return to the training ranks only last May, has now decided to give the daughter of Flemensfirth a change of scenery, and in doing so, clearly has high hopes, with Relegate on Thursday featuring among 40 entries for the Stayers' Hurdle at Cheltenham this March.
Outlining plans before that, Murphy said: "Relegate is coming along nicely now. We have had a few stops and starts, which meant she wasn't out over Christmas, but we have had a clear run for the last month or so.
"All being well, she will start off at the Dublin Racing Festival in a handicap hurdle. She is rated 130 and that looks quite an attractive mark, given what she was up to in bumpers."
He added: "We have put a lot of work into her jumping, as it was letting her down during her novice season. It will have to improve, but we hope that it will."
Victory at Leopardstown's Dublin Racing Festival next month would put Relegate in a strong position to contest anything from the Coral Cup, to the David Nicholson Mares' Hurdle, or indeed the Stayers' Hurdle at Cheltenham.
Bookmakers make the four-time winner a general 33/1 shot for the Stayers' Hurdle behind 5/4 favourite Paisley Park, the defending champion. But she is also a general 25/1 chance for the Mares' Hurdle, entries on Thursday revealing 35 potential rivals.
No Chasing For Sams Profile
Fellow Irish raider Sams Profile is also set to test his Stayers' Hurdle credentials soon, with trainer Mouse Morris revealing he is ready to run.
He said: "The Stayers' Hurdle is the aim with Sams Profile. We were thinking about going chasing with him, but he had a slight setback so we decided to stay over hurdles for this season.
"I would hope he could have a lively chance in the Stayers' Hurdle if he went there."
The six-year-old was last seen finishing half a length second in the 2m4f Champion Novice Hurdle at the Punchestown festival in May, having two months earlier been fifth to City Island in the Cheltenham Festival's Ballymore Novices' Hurdle.
Despite placing at Grade 3 level, as well as twice in Grade 1s, Sams Profile remains a one-time winner over hurdles, though that win did come after a long break, boosting his chances wherever he returns.
Morris had said he would return in the Galmoy Hurdle at Gowran Park next Thursday, but when he did not appear in the entries for that test, speculation began about a possible tilt at the Boyne Hurdle.
Morris used that Navan race as a stepping stone to Stayers' Hurdle glory for Trapper John in 1990. Sams Profile is now no bigger than 33/1 in the Stayers' Hurdle betting.