Meade stepping up Go Native's £1m bid
Noel Meade plans to give £1m hopeful Go Native a workout after racing at Leopardstown on Sunday week to complete his preparations for the Smurfit Kappa Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham.
Last year's Supreme Novices' Hurdle winner is in line for the seven-figure payout if he can strike at the Festival, as the WBX Hurdling Triple Crown is now within touching distance.
The £1m is available to any horse who wins the Fighting Fifth at Newcastle in November, Kempton's Christmas Hurdle and the Champion Hurdle in the same season -- and Go Native has the first two legs safely locked away.
"We will probably take him away to Leopardstown rather than Navan to work as the ground will be better for him there," explained Meade yesterday.
"We worked Harchibald at Navan 10 days before he ran in the Champion Hurdle and he ended up pulling himself up on heavy ground."
Go Native is a general 6/1 chance to scoop the bonus after beating some of the leading protagonists at Newcastle and Kempton, with Meade having rested the seven-year-old since his success on December 26.
"We stopped with him after Christmas and didn't train him through January," the Co Meath trainer outlined.
"He was hacking every day but didn't do any fast work as we slowed him right down. We have started quickening him up again and we now need to get him to Cheltenham in good form."
Go Native scampered away from the field turning for home in the Supreme last year, only to tire on the run-in under Paul Carberry and cling on by a neck from Medermit.
"Paul murdered them turning in and Medermit got close, but we were in front too long," Meade recalled.
"If we get there in the same form this year we'll hold on to him longer and the quicker they go, the better it will be for him. Having got to this stage, we just wanted to get there now and hope he travels well again."
Meade has warned fans of Pandorama that a quick surface at Cheltenham next month could dent his chances in the RSA Chase. Since joining Meade's team in early 2008, the seven-year-old has landed eight of his nine starts and is a best-priced 14/1 to slay the challenges of Punchestowns and Long Run at Cheltenham.
Pandorama has scored on all three of his outings over fences and claimed the scalp of Weapon's Amnesty when last seen at Leopardstown over Christmas.
"He is a very good horse and has only been beaten once, and that was by Mikael D'Haguenet," said Meade.
"I wasn't that happy with him before he ran at Christmas. I took him to work at Dundalk and he didn't work too well, but I put that down to Dundalk.
"He didn't travel like he can during the race at Leopardstown but I am very happy with him now. We gave him a break after Christmas and have been building him up since then.
"He has done well and we gave him an easy time last year with this season in mind. The only negative would be if the ground was really good as he likes an ease."
Meade's stable jockey Paul Carberry is facing a spell on the sidelines after spraining his ankle in a fall from Champus at Naas on Sunday. "Paul is very sore and can't put any weight on his ankle," revealed Meade. "Thankfully it is swollen rather than broken and he is going for some physio."
Elsewhere, Our Vic heads 21 possible runners in Saturday's Blue Square Gold Cup at Haydock where Willie Mullins has entered Arbor Supreme, Ballytrim and Pomme Tiepy.
Apart from Our Vic, David Pipe is responsible for The Package while Richard Lee's Welsh National third Le Beau Bai currently heads the ante-post market, having recently won over hurdles at Bangor.
The 2008 winner, Miko De Beauchene, and Grand National hero Mon Mome are interesting contenders for Venetia Williams. Nigel Twiston-Davies has left in Beat The Boys, Ballyfitz, Hello Bud and Irish Raptor, while Nicky Richards is considering running According To John.
Meanwhile, Punchestown racecourse yesterday announced plans to invest €300,000 in customer facilities in advance of this year's festival.
The investment plan will see improvements in the public areas including the catering and bar facilities, the owners and trainers bar and the reserved enclosure at the festival.
One of the most significant areas of investment will be in the main public catering venue, the Dobbins Food Hall, which will undergo a complete revamp.
Following on from the success of last year's later start times, the first race during the festival will go to post at 3.30 and final race at 7.0 (Tuesday to Thursday) and 7.30 on Friday, with eight races on the card.
Saturday's Family Day will commence at 2.30.
Commenting on the development plans Punchestown general manager Dick O'Sullivan said that "value for money" is the Punchestown goal, adding: "We are confident that the thousands who come through the gates will be impressed with the improvements and will have a great festival experience at the right price."