Soft ground preferable for Emma Lavelle Festival hopes

Emma Lavelle admits good ground at the Cheltenham Festival would see both Penny Max and Gullinbursti sidestep the meeting.

Penny Max, owned by Highclere Thoroughbred Racing, has won two of his three starts over fences and holds an entry in the JLT Specialty Handicap Chase having missed several recent engagements.

Gullinbursti has won twice and finished second twice over hurdles this season and is entered in the three-mile Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle.

“Penny Max just needs soft ground and it wouldn’t have been soft enough at Ascot last week or Newcastle,” said Lavelle.

“Really, it’s unlikely he’s going to get his ground at Cheltenham. He’s got the entry but unless there is a downpour I can’t really see him running.

“This horse’s ultimate aim is next year’s Hennessy so it’s all about doing the best for him before then.

“Like I say, he’s got the entry in case it comes up soft but the likelihood is he won’t be going.

“It’s the same for Gullinbursti, he needs genuine soft ground to be seen at his best.

“He ran a blinder last time, but he’s going to make a lovely novice chaser so there’s no point asking him to compete in a Grade One on good ground and ruining him.

“We’ll probably look for a handicap somewhere for him instead but he’s in the Albert Bartlett in case the rain comes.”