Hunters Call set to bypass Betfair Hurdle in favour of direct Festival route

Hunters Call Hunters Call, ante-post favourite for the Betfair Hurdle, is likely to swerve the Newbury race and head straight to the Cheltenham Festival.
The eight-year-old made a winning debut for trainer Olly Murphy in a big Ascot handicap before Christmas andthe Wilmcote handler is now favouring skipping the February 10 contest in order to arrive fresh for the Festival in March.
Murphy said: "All being well, Hunters Call will head straight to the Cheltenham Festival.He will have an entry in the Betfair, but he has gone up another 9lb and it is not easy to win two big handicaps, let alone three, and while the Betfair has great prize money, there is only one Cheltenham Festival."
He went on:"I just feel if he ran well at Newbury and went up another 5lb or 6lb, it would hinder our chances of having a horse with a live chance at the Cheltenham Festival
"He will have entries in the Coral Cup, Martin Pipe and County Hurdle and we will make a plan nearer the time.
"I would certainly not be worried about stepping him up in trip. As soon as Jack Kennedy got off him at Ascot, he said the Coral Cup is the race he would go for.
"There are lots of options at Cheltenham and I will sit down with the owners and discuss things over the next six weeks."