Thomas Darby will only take his chance in the Unibet Champion Hurdle if testing conditions prevail on the opening day of the Cheltenham Festival, trainer Olly Murphy has confirmed.
Runner-up to Klassical Dream in the Supreme Novices' Hurdle at Prestbury Park last March, the seven-year-old pursued a career over fences at the start of this season, but November defeats at Warwick and Kempton prompted a rethink.
The change of plan looked a wise call after Thomas Darby gave weight and a beating to his rivals in the Matchbook Holloway's Hurdle at Ascot last month - form that received a significant boost after the sixth, Pic D'Orhy, claimed the Betfair Hurdle at Newbury.
Thomas Darby is as short as 12-1 for the Champion Hurdle on 10 March, but Murphy is currently favouring an appearance at Fontwell on Sunday before a tilt at the Aintree Hurdle in April.
He said: "We've left him in (the Champion Hurdle), but we'd only think about if it looked like the ground was going to be very soft.
"The first preference at the moment is to run in the National Spirit at Fontwell and then go on to Aintree.
"It makes sense to leave the Cheltenham option open, but it would have to be very soft for him to run."