Charles Byrnes’ seven-year-old headed to the Paddy Power Stayers’ Hurdle unbeaten in five and with a glistening CV having scored twice at the track and impressed in the Boyne Hurdle when tuning up for Festival action.
Despite a cut suffered in that Navan victory causing its problems in the build up to his Prestbury Park assignment, Blazing Khal was still a popular choice with punters and was sent off the 9-2 second-favourite for the feature race on day three.
Attempting to follow in the footsteps of Solwhit, who triumphed for Byrnes in the 2013 edition, Blazing Khal was well positioned jumping the second-last and was travelling smoothly for the handler’s son Philip alongside Teahupoo as the field rounded the turn for home.
But whereas Gordon Elliott’s 9-4 favourite would go one to play a significant hand in the finish, Blazing Khal came under pressure approaching the last and then faded up the hill to finish sixth, beaten just over 11 lengths.
He is now set for an easy few weeks to get over his Cheltenham exertions before connections plot their next move – with Byrnes favouring the easier three miles of the JRL Group Liverpool Hurdle Hurdle on Grand National Day (April 15) over the Ladbrokes Champion Stayers’ Hurdle at the Punchestown Festival (April 27).
“He’s OK. He just didn’t seem to stay up the hill, he got very tired from the last till home,” said Byrnes.
“We’ll give him the chance to get over that for a couple of weeks and then make a plan.
“He’s got two options – he can go to Aintree or he can go to Punchestown. I’m probably favouring Aintree because it is the easier three miles, but we will see in a few weeks.”
When asked if the interrupted preparations had a baring on Blazing Khal’s performance, Byrnes added: “I’d say it definitely played it’s part, but he just didn’t seem to stay the distance.
“It definitely didn’t help, but that being said he was well beaten and I don’t want to make too many excuses.
“We’ll freshen him up now and try and get another good run out of him.”