Gidleigh Park has established his credentials as one of Britain's leading novice hurdlers this season and trainer Harry Fry is now eyeing up the Cheltenham Festival in March having won on Trials Day in the Cotswolds.
Following his latest win, the trainer has that most welcome of problems at this time of year as he seeks to identify the best target for his rising star at the Festival in March.
The Supreme Novices' Hurdle has been crossed off that list, leaving Fry to plot his path to either the Baring Bingham Novices' Hurdle over just shy of two-miles-and-five-furlong, or the Albert Bartlett over three-miles come March.
It's a headache the Dorset-based trainer will be happy to have as he goes after his third official Cheltenham Festival winner.
Though he only celebrated his 37th birthday in December, Harry Fry already has well over a decade as a trainer, having taken out his license in October 2012.
At that time, he was one of the youngest trainers operating in Britain, following five years as assistant to the multiple champion National Hunt trainer Paul Nicholls.
By the end of stint with the Ditcheat supremo, Fry was chiefly in charge of Nicholls' satellite yard at Seaborough in Dorset.
It was there that he prepared Rock On Ruby to win the Champion Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival in 2012, taking the crown away from the mighty Hurricane Fly either side of his wins in 2011 and 2013 for Willie Mullins.
Though Fry was acknowledged as the man responsible for Rock On Ruby at the time, he went down as a Nicholls winner as his was the name on the license. Some seven months later, Fry went solo when he got his license.
The mare Bitofapuzzle became his first Grade 1 winner at Fairyhouse in April 2015 and he has established a reputation as a quality handler.
His first Cheltenham Festival winner was Unowhatimeanharry in the Albert Bartlett in 2016, while another mare, Love Envoi, won the Dawn Run Mares' Novices' Hurdle in 2022.
She was also second to the retiring Honeysuckle in the 2023 Mares' Hurdle in a pulsating finish, while another near miss was Neon Wolf, second in the Baring Bingham Novices' Hurdle in 2017 behind Willoughby Court.
Now, seven years on, Fry may believe he has the horse to go one better in that Festival contest.
Owned by The Eyre Family, Gidleigh Park races in their maroon and orange silks and now has genuine ambitions heading into the major spring festivals across Britain and Ireland.
Fry has previously trained Sir Ivan and Bold Chief for the same owners, but Gidleigh Park already looks destined to the classiest performer they have owned.
Gidleigh Park went unsold at the Goffs Sales in August 2022 as a four-year-old with a reserve price of £58,000.
After being acquired by The Eyre Family, he was sent to Fry's Dorset base and debuted with a winning effort in a bumper at Chepstow on soft ground in March 2023 – two days after the Cheltenham Festival!
Following on from that bumper win last season, Gidleigh Park has really progressed since being sent over hurdles this term.
He's now won all three starts and is taking each step up the ladder in pleasing fashion.
He scored at Exeter in November in a Class 4 novice event and followed up at Newbury five days before Christmas, stepping up slightly in grade and tackling 2m4½f for the first time as he cruised clear by nine-lengths.
From there it was to Cheltenam on Trials Day for the Grade 2 SSS Super Alloys Novices' Hurdle. After cutting out much of the running, Gidleigh Park was headed by Nicky Henderson's Lucky Place approaching the final flight and it looked as though his race might be run.
Encouragingly, he found plenty under pressure and rallied to win by half a length to remain unbeaten.
"It's the first time he's had to really battle and he will have learned again and be sharper for it," was Fry's assessment of the Trials Day win. "He's almost given us more questions than answers in terms of which race to run him in in March."
The trainer said he'll take his time in deciding what race to target in the spring back in the Cotswolds but he was thrilled to see his owners get their maiden Cheltenham winner.
In the longer term, Fry is confident that Gidleigh Park's future will be over fences.
"He's a big, tall individual who was quite raw to begin with. In the outside school when we started, he could barely get round the bend and just in terms of giving him time, I'm delighted for the Eyre Family and it is their first winner here at Cheltenham.
"They have been patient and allowed us to take our time and ultimately he is a chaser, so what he is doing over hurdles is a bonus."
He has excellent breeding for a National Hunt horse, being by the vaunted sire Walk In The Park out of Lindeman, with plenty stamina in his family tree.
He is a half-brother to point/2m4f-2m7f hurdle/chase winner St Barts while his dam was a bumper/2m5f hurdle winner, sister to bumper/2m4f-3m hurdle winner Whisky Yankee, half-sister to useful 2m-2m4f hurdle winner Monty Blue from family of the mighty Denman.
This article was written by a partner sports writer via Spotlight Sports Group. All odds displayed on this page were correct at the time of writing and are subject to withdrawal or change at any time.