Hourigan aiming Tornado back at Cheltenham
VETERAN Limerick handler Michael Hourigan is not one bit afraid of pitting Dancing Tornado against Little Josh once again in the December Gold Cup.
The pair were first and second in the Paddy Power Gold Cup last month but the JP McManus-owned gelding, at 10st 11lb, will be 3lb better off back at Prestbury Park a week on Saturday. While there has to be some doubt whether the meeting will take place in the current Arctic conditions, Hourigan believes his charge has a great chance of gaining revenge.
"It's more than likely that Dancing Tornado will return to Cheltenham for the December Gold Cup. We were very pleased with his run in the Paddy Power and he came out of the race fine," said Hourigan. "Tony McCoy always said that a big handicap chase at Cheltenham would be the ideal race as they would go a decent gallop.
"Dancing Tornado would be racing off a higher mark but we will take that on the chin, especially as we will be meeting Little Josh on better terms."
Nigel Twiston-Davies is on record as describing Little Josh's win as one of his best days in racing as his son Sam was on board but while he has his improving chaser in great heart, he's not so confident of the meeting taking place.
"He's in tremendous form and the idea is that he'll be running at Cheltenham but I don't live far from there and it's looking doubtful to me that it will be on," Twiston-Davies said.
Another with the race as an option is Henrietta Knight's Calgary Bay (10st 6lb). "It's a possibility for Calgary Bay at the moment, although a lot will depend on the weather," she said. "The race he was second in at Bangor was a very trappy race and Calgary Bay is not really a two-miler... it is a bit difficult to place him at the moment because he hasn't really got a distance.
"He won over three miles at Doncaster last season and was also successful over the same trip of the December Gold Cup in the Grade Two Dipper Novices' Chase. He always runs a good race around Cheltenham and I don't think that he would mind what the ground was like."
Paul Nicholls' Poquelin is due to carry top weight of 11st 12lb should he bid to win the race for a second successive year. Nicky Henderson has a strong hand with Paddy Power Gold Cup fourth Mad Max (11st 6lb), dual course winner French Opera (11st 7lb), Working Title (10st 1lb) and Dave's Dream (10st 11lb), a winner at The Open meeting, among the potential contenders.
Along with Dancing Tornado, there are nine other Irish-trained entries -- including the Tony Martin-trained pair of recent Naas winner Psycho (11st 1lb) and Northern Alliance (10st 10lb), as well as the Jessica Harrington-trained Roberto Goldback (11st 5lb).