Pandorama's Gold Cup hopes in doubt
Noel Meade's stable star Pandorama, which was ante-post favourite to complete a Leopardstown Grade One double on Sunday week in the Hennessy Gold Cup, is the latest high-profile jumper to be sidelined by a setback, but it may not be too serious.
The Flemensfirth gelding, which landed the Lexus Chase impressively at the Dublin course after Christmas for Meade, stable jockey Paul Carberry and hotelier Robert Bagnall, sustained what appears to be bruising to a hock when reportedly cast in his box last week.
"Pandorama has been slightly lame and needs a week's box rest. Noel thinks there's a good 50-50 chance we will still bring the horse to Cheltenham for the Gold Cup -- it's been my lifelong ambition to get there," the gelding's enthusiastic owner Bagnall explained.
Immediate reaction from Paddy Power was to shorten their original second favourite Pride Of Dulcote to 13/8 to capture the Hennessy prize for the Paul Nicholls stable on his Irish debut, with last year's winner Joncol for Paul Nolan next best now at 11/4.
Powers also rate Colm Murphy's Cheltenham hero Big Zeb at slight odds-on (10/11) to repeat last year's success at Punchestown next Sunday in what is now the Boylesports.com Chase at Grade Two level, with the sponsors offering 11/10 if you fancy Barry Geraghty's regular partner will again defeat Golden Silver (7/2) as well as Henry de Bromhead's Irish Independent Arkle Trophy victor Sizing Europe (100/30), which reverts to two miles.
Willie Mullins, who has Cooldine, Kempes and Barker engaged in the Hennessy Gold Cup, has been dealt yet another injury blow with the news that talented novice Flat Out -- short-listed for the Arkle Trophy in the Cotswolds -- will miss the remainder of the campaign after suffering "a little chip fracture on a hind leg" when exiting two out at Leopardstown on Sunday in the Irish Arkle Chase.
Mullins, meanwhile, unveiled a further classy recruit to his yard on behalf of champion owner Michael O'Leary's Gigginstown House Stud, when Sir Des Champs made an impressive Irish debut in the Golf Club Membership Hurdle at Navan yesterday.
Davy Russell steered a wide course throughout aboard this warm favourite in search of better ground on a track riding heavy, and the partnership had plenty left in the tank to contain White Star Line's challenge, helped by a mighty leap at the final flight.
The costly French import, which had landed a decent Auteuil contest last March over an extended two miles in the soft, will have just a couple more runs over timber before being launched over fences next season.
Typically testing terrain at the Meath venue also brought out the best, during well-contested maiden hurdles on this card, in fellow French-breds Raz De Maree for local owner Jimmy Swan, and the Colin McBratney-trained Syndey Des Pictons.
However, it was Louth-based Michael O'Hare who took the training honours as Accordion To Paddy and Arctic Mick brought off a long-priced double in the day's handicaps.
In between, Pauline Gavin's charge Ad Idem held off the late surge of Beginners Chase favourite Ballymak to maintain the splendid strike-rate of Dublin owner Annette Mee. "Ad Idem loved that ground. He loves this track and there is a novice handicap chase back here in March for him," said the winning trainer.
The layers got a real result in the bumper courtesy of Arthur Moore's shrewd Derby Sale purchase Duomo Di Milano (12/1), which Niall Kelly guided to a comprehensive victory over the Willie and Patrick Mullins market-leader and fellow debutant Dunbrovic.