Tommy's Oscar to avoid Cheltenham Festival

Tommy's Oscar will not being going to the Cheltenham Festival to challenge for the Arkle.

The eight-year-old could be off to Doncaster next weekend for the Watch Off The Fence On attheraces.com Lightning Novices' Chase after swerving a chance to defend his New One Unibet Hurdle title at Haydock on Saturday.

Tommy's Oscar has won eight of his 15 starts over hurdles and has won one and been runner-up in two of his three starts over fences.

He has shown plenty of aptitude for chasing, despite being held by Banbridge in a Grade Two at Cheltenham in November, and narrowly failing to concede weight to Since Day One on his last outing at Newcastle.

In between those outings, he was back over hurdles, though no match for Constitution Hill when last of five in the Fighting Fifth at his local track.

Owner Ian Hamilton said: "We are not going to Cheltenham, no way. If we were going anywhere, we'd go Aintree on a flatter track. The undulating track at Cheltenham wouldn't suit him and it is going to be a hot Arkle.

"I just think Aintree would suit him better. He's in fine fettle now, but we're definitely not going to the Arkle."

Tommy's Oscar won three handicap hurdles last winter before completing a four-timer in the Grade Two at Haydock.

With a cold snap forecast this week and the possibility of jumps racing facing another hiatus, Hamilton will enter Tommy's Oscar over fences, with the Lightning Novices' Chase on the agenda.

Hamilton added: "We are not sure if it is the right thing to do, but we will stay chasing with him and while we looked at the Haydock race, we decided we will go chasing at Doncaster next week for that £50,000 race.

"He has to go where he has the best chance of picking up some prize money."

Hamilton, a farmer by trade, feels Tommy's Oscar is more likely to race nearer to their Northumberland yard in future, and added: "There would be more opportunities for Tommy if we travelled south all the time, but it is just a hassle to get down south for us. We are farmers and we have plenty of jobs to do here and there is the issue of getting staff as well.

"The travelling takes a lot out of them, too. There are not many big prizes up north. Doncaster, Haydock and Aintree are not too bad, but that's about all."

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