Quevega recovers from slight setback
Willie Mullins yesterday reported Quevega to be in good shape ahead of her bid for a fourth successive triumph in the mares' hurdle at Cheltenham next month, although he also revealed that her training schedule had recently suffered a slight setback.
The exceptional daughter of Robin Des Champs, as short as 1/2 market leader for the Grade Two, is due to make her seasonal debut at the Prestbury Park fixture for a third year in a row.
"She's in great form," Mullins said, before adding: "She was in terrific form -- ready to run -- about three weeks ago, then just went out of sorts a little bit, so I gave her 10 days easy. I wasn't going to run her, but I had her ready so that I had nothing to do coming up to Cheltenham other than keep her ticking over.
"Now she's back good and strong again. I like to get them ready, then if something happens, you can give them a bit of a break before building them up totally for the Festival."
Grandouet, one of the few potential threats to Mullins' Hurricane Fly in the Champion Hurdle, was yesterday ruled out of the Grade One after failing to recover in time following surgery on a hind leg in recent days.
Gordon Elliott's Cheltenham team was also dealt a blow after it emerged that Backstage, a six-time scorer in point-to-points of late, is not eligible for the Christies Foxhunters' Chase, having exceeded prize money limits for the race in 2009.
The 10-year-old had been as low as 4/1 favourite for what is the point-to-pointers' Gold Cup, but Elliott revealed: "We've been told that he won £11,000 too much a few years ago, yet in six weeks' time he would have qualified. It's very disappointing."
Elliott said that Backstage could yet run in a handicap at Cheltenham and, to that end, was among the entries unveiled yesterday for both the cross-country race and the Kim Muir.
Other high-profile Irish prospects to feature among the 1,053 entries for the 11 Festival handicaps are Jessica Harrington's Citizenship, which would land a €100k bonus that has been put up by Boylesports if he can add to his victory in the bookmakers' handicap hurdle at Leopardstown last month with a win in either the County or Conditional Jockeys' Hurdles.
Mullins' 2011 County hero Final Approach, already entered in the Champion and World Hurdles, is in the same two handicaps, as well as the Coral Cup.
The weights for all the handicaps are due to be published next Wednesday.
- Carrigeen Lechuga could be aimed at the Irish Grand National after landing her second success under Rules in the space of a fortnight at Thurles.
The multiple point-to-point winner was sent off at 15/8 in the Irish Stallion Farms EBF Mares Novice Chase, and made every yard of the running.
Conceding weight to all bar Special Token, Dick Lalor's seven-year-old jumped well throughout under the trainer's daughter Liz and kept up a relentless gallop to draw five lengths clear of Ballinahow Lady.
- there was an Irish winner in Dubai yesterday, with David Marnane's Nocturnal Affair justifying 6/1 co-favouritism in the five-furlong handicap for Ryan Moore at Meydan.