Nolan looking at Lexus assignment for Joncol
WHILE jump racing on this side of the Irish Sea is facing a wipeout this week, Wexford trainer Paul Nolan is looking at the long-term forecast in the hope stable star Joncol can put a disappointing reappearance behind him in Leopardstown's Lexus Chase over Christmas.
The seven-year-old was below par when only fourth to Big Zeb at Navan earlier this month, but Nolan reports him to be back on song.
Joncol finished third behind What A Friend in the Lexus last December. "We were a bit disappointed (at Navan), though it (the trip) was a bit short for him and he wasn't himself," Nolan said at yesterday's official launch of the Leopardstown Christmas Festival.
"He seems 100pc now, so we are looking at the Lexus. There's the Hennessy at Leopardstown after that, which he won last year. They are the two main aims; whether he would handle Cheltenham I'm not sure. With his action he will handle better ground, but whether he will handle the undulations of Cheltenham is another thing."
What A Friend, trained by Paul Nicholls, is among the 30 entries, as is last year's runner-up Money Trix, from the Nicky Richards stable. Among others featuring in a classy list are Hennessy Gold Cup first and third, Diamond Harry and Denman; Neptune Collonges; Taranis; Sizing Europe; plus three from the Willie Mullins yard -- Cooldine, J'y Vole and Kempes.
Jack The Bus, winner of the Troytown Handicap Chase at Navan, is on course for the Paddy Power Chase on December 27.
The Peter Casey-trained 10-year-old has been installed joint-favourite with the sponsors, and will shoulder 10st 6lb. "The Paddy Power Chase is the intention for Jack The Bus, but it depends on the weather -- he will run there if it's soft," said Casey.
"He's back galloping after a week off after his Troytown success and he worked great. He's in great form.
"We fancied him for the Troytown as he ran well in the Cork Grand National when fifth and if he hadn't have made a mistake, he would have been fourth. The three miles at Navan last time was perfect, as it will be in the Paddy Power, but it all depends on the ground."
Fellow market leader Becauseicouldntsee, trained by Noel Glynn, has been burdened with 11 stone.
Preparations for the four-day Leopardstown Festival are well advanced and track manager Tom Burke reported yesterday that the Graded races have already attracted healthy interest from England.
"We are very pleased with today's early stage entries for our featured races. The track is in excellent condition at the moment and we are looking forward to a great Festival of highly competitive racing," Burke said.
Officials at the Foxrock venue will be hoping the current arctic spell is well gone by the time their four-day Festival comes around, but the immediate prospects for racing on this side of the Irish Sea don't look good.
The fixture for Navan tomorrow was cancelled yesterday after the track was found to be unfit for racing due to a covering of snow. And with freezing temperatures set to continue, the rearranged fixture at Fairyhouse on Thursday is also a major doubt.
"Looking at things realistically, I would have to be pessimistic about Thursday going ahead," said Fairyhouse manager Peter Roe. "We still have about three inches of snow on the track and there is no sign of a thaw.
"We are already looking at possible contingency plans if we cannot race on Thursday and we might be in a position to say more about options and alternatives tomorrow."
Dundalk on Friday remains the big hope to survive the current cold snap, but the Co Louth all-weather venue is currently covered in snow, so that is not guaranteed to go ahead either.
Punchestown's big Sunday card, with the Grade One John Durkan Memorial Chase, is in doubt as the track was covered in snow last night. However, Punchestown official Richie Galway is hoping that a rise in temperatures later in the week might help to turn things around. "There is snow on the track, but the ground underneath is not frozen," Galway explained.
"A lot will depend on how much more snow we get, but we've been told that things might improve on Friday into Saturday with rain and sleet instead of snow. If that happens it would give us a chance, so we're not giving up yet."
Paddy Power Chase (sponsors bet): 12/1 Becauseicouldntsee, Jack The Bus, 14/1 Chicago Grey, Glenquest, Lochan Lacha, Pomme Tiepy, Streets Of Gold, 16/1 Caim Hill, Catch Me, Clan Tara, Leanne, Majestic Concorde, Shuil Aris, Telenor, Venalmar, 20/1 bar