Trainer Alan King is set to run high-class hurdler Crystal d'Ainay at Wetherby's bet365 Charlie Hall Chase meeting this weekend but is weighing up his options before deciding whether to unleash his versatile charge in the Grade Two John Smith's Hurdle or the Grade Two bet365 Charlie Hall Chase, both of which take place on Saturday, October 29.
King is leaning towards the £40,000, three mile one furlong, John Smith's Hurdle, a race in which the six-year-old was the one and a half-length runner-up to Telemoss last season, but has not ruled out a tilt at the £75,000 feature chase run over the same distance.
The Wiltshire-based handler commented: "Crystal d'Ainay is more likely to go for the John Smith's Hurdle in which he was second last year. I'll have a look at the entries and study it closer but the intention at the moment is that if he goes anywhere he will probably run in the John Smith's Hurdle.
"He's fresh and well and in good form. He might just benefit from the run but we're very happy with him at the moment.
"We'll see how we get on at the weekend before making any plans for the season. I might mix and match a little bit - hurdles and fences - and see how we get on. He's rated a fair bit lower over fences than he is over hurdles so it might tempt us that way with him."
Crystal d'Ainay ran third to Grey Abbey in the Grade Two Betfair Bowl over this distance at Aintree in April, on his first start over the bigger obstacles since running second in a chase at Pau in December 2002. The gelding ran twice over fences in France, winning once.
King, who cited the bet365 Charlie Hall Chase as a possible target after Crystal d'Ainay's Aintree run, reasoned: "It was very much throwing him in at the deep end. It was only his third run over fences and it was the end of a long season for him but I was happy enough and he jumped well.
"He's a horse that I think can get bored with things quite quickly so it's a case of just trying to keep him interested. It might be an advantage to sort of mix the hurdling and chasing with him but nothing's set in stone with him at the moment."
Latest betting on the bet365 Charlie Hall Chase with bet365:
Grey Abbey 11/4
Keen Leader 5/1
Take The Stand 6/1
Colourful Life 16/1
Crystal d'Ainay 16/1
Joe's Edge 16/1
Royal Auclair 20/1
Strong Resolve 50/1
Major Benefit 150/1