Evan Williams has warned leading contender Court Minstrel is far from certain to take his chance in the ultra-competitive Betfair Hurdle at Newbury on Saturday.
The six-year-old ran out an impressive winner on his debut over obstacles at Cheltenham in October and emerged with huge credit when third behind top novice Dodging Bullets at the same track a month later, having suffered trouble in running.
He was slightly disappointing when only fourth in the Tolworth Hurdle at Sandown last time and having struggled to cope in the mud on that occasion, Williams insists his charge will only line up this weekend if conditions are right.
The trainer said: "We are keeping an eye on it, but he definitely won't run if the ground is very soft. It will have to dry out considerably for him to run.
"He's in grand form at home and I would prefer to run him if I can because the prize-money is so good, but the one thing we learnt at Sandown is that he can't handle very soft ground, so there is no point running him on it again this weekend.
"There is a bit of drying weather around at the moment, so we might be all right, but conditions will have to be suitable for him."
Court Minstrel holds an entry in the Supreme Novices' Hurdle at next month's Cheltenham Festival, but at this stage Williams is keen to go down the handicap route with a horse he believes is well treated off a mark of 131.
"He won't run in top novice company as, in my opinion, he is not a Grade One novice," said the trainer.
"My feeling is that on good ground he is a well-handicapped horse, so we might as well look at the handicaps at those better meetings for the time being.
"Whether he runs on Saturday or not, spring will arrive at some stage and I am sure there is a good prize in him when he gets on some good ground."
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