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Pittoni seeks International honours

Charles Byrnes believes this weekend's stanjames.com International at Cheltenham is a realistic target for his intended runner Pittoni.

A Grade One-winning youngster at the start of 2010, Pittoni was placed to land a minor event at Naas in October before managing only third in last month's Morgiana Hurdle behind the improving Thousand Stars.

"The plan is for Pittoni to travel over for the International. I thought he ran up to his handicap mark in the Morgiana Hurdle," said the trainer.

"He won a Grade One as a juvenile, but it wasn't the greatest race in the world and he's probably up to being a Grade Two hurdler at the moment. He's a bit behind the likes of Thousand Stars.

"His form has mainly been on heavy or soft ground, but I am sure he will have no problem with good going and he heads to Cheltenham in good order."

The Grade Two race was re-opened for 24 hours after attracting 10 horses on Monday, but the same amount remain. Last year's winner Menorah, who unseated his rider when looking certain to open his account over fences at Exeter, is dropping back to hurdles as Philip Hobbs considers his options.

He faces two rising stars in the division in Paul Nicholls' Greatwood winner Brampour and Nicky Henderson's Punchestown Festival hero Grandouet, who looked very smart at Haydock recently.

Donald McCain's Overturn remains at the top of his game after successes in the Coral Hurdle and the Fighting Fifth, while last season's Champion Hurdle sixth Clerk's Choice could have his first start for Oliver Sherwood.

Brian Ellison has three contenders in Marsh Warbler, Abergavenny and Stormy Weather, while Nicholls' Sanctuaire completes the 10.

The ground at Cheltenham is good, good to firm in places, and clerk of the course Simon Claisse said: "Conditions in the build-up to the International have been extremely dry. We have taken the decision to water. We are forecast three millimetres of rain on Thursday, but bar the odd shower, that is all that is predicted."

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