Trainer Hughie Morrison says he is unconcerned by Not So Sleepy’s disappointing display on his latest start and has confirmed his charge will be heading straight to the Cheltenham Festival in March.

Not So Sleepy made a slow start to 2021, recording a fifth-place finish at Cheltenham before back-to-back seventh positions at Aintree and Chester, but a runner-up placing at Doncaster in October provided a much-needed boost.

The 10-year-old then produced a brilliant effort to dead-heat for first place with Nicky Henderson’s Epatante in the Fighting Fifth at Newcastle in November, and another close battle was expected when the duo locked horns at Kempton on Boxing Day.

However, the Lady Blyth-owned charge was last of five at the Surrey venue and that disappointing performance posed some questions for connections to answer regarding the next run.

Morrison has not lost sleep over that result, saying his charge can be warranted an off day once in a while, and he confirmed Not So Sleepy will not race again before heading to Prestbury Park in March.

“He’s very well. He obviously didn’t fancy Kempton that day, which he’s entitled to do after 55 races. He’s old enough to look after himself,” said the East Ilsley handler.

“Now he’s a Grade One winner there’s little point in going for anything else other than a Grade One, but as he gets older he runs best fresh. He’ll go for the Champion Hurdle and we’ll hope he can run into a place. He’ll go straight there – he won’t run before.”

Not So Sleepy can be backed at 40/1 to claim the spoils in the Champion Hurdle at the 2022 Cheltenham Festival, the same price as Aspire Tower, Echoes In Rain and My Mate Mozzie.

Honeysuckle looks like the one to beat at 8/13, while strong runs are also expected from 5/1 Appreciate It, 7/1 Sharjah and 8/1 Epatante.

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