Ruby voices 'Vroum' Hennessy concerns despite light weight
Coneygree's presence in the Hennessy Gold Cup looks set to ensure that the leading Irish contenders' weights for the famous staying handicap will be favourably low.
Gordon Elliott's top-rated chaser Don Cossack has been allotted top-weight of 11st 12lbs for the prestigious chase at Newbury on Saturday fortnight. However, he is an unlikely starter, which would leave the weights to go up three pounds.
That would see Coneygree having to lump top-weight, but, if that transpires, Willie Mullins's Vroum Vroum Mag, the shortest-priced Irish-trained contender at 14/1, would still have just 10st 8lb.
The classy mare is long odds-on to make a successful return at Clonmel today. Should she justify her price, she would incur a further four-pound hike, but 10st 12lb could still be a fair weight.
While looking forward to her reappearance, Ruby Walsh has expressed some reservations about her Hennessy prospects.
"I know Vroum Vroum Mag is short in the betting for the Hennessy Gold Cup," Walsh told Racing UK, "but she will run at Clonmel as the conditions there suit her. Hopefully she'll be ready to run and is in good form. It may be too soon to run in the Hennessy after that.
"She's rated 153 so she's probably not high enough to step up to Grade One chases, and she's probably hard enough to find Grade Two races for, so it is hard to know where to place her."
With Don Cossack engaged, Mullins's other top novices from last term, Don Poli and Valseur Lido, have 11st and 10st 8lb in the Hennessy, a race last won by a cross-channel raider when Michael O'Brien's Bright Highway prevailed in 1980.
There were two low-profile Irish winners in Britain yesterday. At Ayr, Adam Short enjoyed his first win on Stuart Crawford's Comragh (7/1) in the maiden hurdle, before Mark Fahey's It'sAfreebee justified 15/8 favouritism in a similar affair for Jonathan Burke at Bangor. Already a bumper winner, It'sAfreebee will be offered for sale at Cheltenham tomorrow.
The following day, John's Spirit will seek to replicate his 2013 Paddy Power Gold Cup triumph.
"He goes there in as good a form as we have ever had him," said Jonjo O'Neill yesterday of last year's narrow runner-up, "so that should give him a live chance."