Fenton hints at taking on the big boys with Dunguib
THE Punchestown plan for Cheltenham failure Dunguib will be dictated by the ground according to trainer Philip Fenton who has indicated his stable star might yet take on the leading two-mile hurdlers.
Ironically, after a terrible spring and winter in which most tracks suffered from the prolonged spell of heavy rain, the current good dry spell is presenting trainers and the Punchestown executive with a new dilemma
Fenton is hoping that forecast showers arrive this weekend -- if they don't, the Tipperary trainer could decide to swerve Tuesday's Evening Herald Champion Novice Hurdle and instead wait for the rains to arrive and run the seven-year-old to run in Friday's Rabobank Champion Hurdle.
"He's in great order, but I wouldn't like to chance it," said Fenton. "It may be the forecast decides his target for us. Another dry week and it may be too quick on Tuesday, so we'd wait for Friday and see if the rain comes."
The good news for Dunguib connections is that, despite the recent dry spell, the going at the track remains soft on all courses, and manager Richie Galway is going hopeful that it won't get much quicker before the start of the five-day festival which was officially launched in Dublin last night.
Less than a week ago the track was waterlogged and Galway believes the recent sunny spell was "badly needed", but believes that the rain will return.
"We've had a terrible winter," said Galway.
"As a result the water table is very high and we're short on grass, so we badly needed the milder temperatures we've got recently. The forecast is relatively good for the remainder of the week, but showers are predicted through the weekend. It is soft now and it is drying, but not much."
With Big Zeb on target for next Tuesday's Boylesports.com Champion Chase and former Gold Cup winner Denman now confirmed for next Wednesday's Gold Cup -- in which he could clash with Joncol, Barbers Shop and Cooldine -- the stage is set for another hugely successful festival.
Like Ruby Walsh, Paddy Flood will miss the big festival at the Kildare track after a tumble at Aintree last Friday. The jockey broke his collarbone when Schindlers Hunt suffered a fatal fall in the John Smith's Melling Chase, causing him to miss the ride on Vic Venturi in the following day's Grand National.
Cork native Brian Harding was another jockey in the wars at the weekend and has confirmed he has broken his arm after a fall at Kelso on Sunday.
Meanwhile, Gordon Elliott's Backstage could go to Perth next week after making an untimely exit in the English Grand National. However, Dessie Hughes will be putting away both of his Aintree runners, Black Apalachi and Vic Venturi, who enjoyed contrasting fortunes at Aintree.
Black Apalachi went close to giving the Kildare trainer victory in the race by finishing second to Don't Push It, while Vic Venturi parted company with Roger Loughran at the 20th fence.
"They are fine and have been out in the field this morning," said the Kildare trainer yesterday.