Warrior on course for Champs showdown
Bog Warrior is in line for a tantalising clash with exciting fellow Gigginstown Stud-owned Sir Des Champs after Tony Martin revealed that he is leaning towards dropping the Drinmore Chase winner in trip at Leopardstown after Christmas.
Successful by an impressive 31 lengths over two and a half miles in the Fairyhouse Grade One under an enterprising Ruby Walsh steer 11 days ago, Bog Warrior holds entries in both the two and three-mile Grade One novice chases at the Dublin venue.
"He's got the two options," Martin said, "but I'd say with the way the ground is looking at the moment, he'll probably run in the shorter race. He is not short of pace, so there's no point stepping him up at the moment."
An easy victor over the minimum distance on his fencing bow at Navan in November, the seven-year-old was passed over by Gigginstown's first-choice rider Davy Russell in favour of First Lieutenant at Fairyhouse, and the jockeys' championship leader is likely to have another difficult decision to make come Leopardstown.
The Willie Mullins-trained Sir Des Champs, so impressive on its chasing debut at Fairyhouse, may line out in the shorter contest, while Philip Fenton's classy Last Instalment would be another leading Gigginstown prospect for the three-miler.
Unbeaten in his four completed starts, Bog Warrior has yet to race on going drier than yielding. Martin expects him to handle better ground, though he was reluctant to be drawn on any plans for Cheltenham in March.
"Like all good horses, I think he'd handle most ground," he suggested, "but I'm not looking beyond Christmas at the moment. We'll get that out of the way before we start thinking about other places, and we'll just try and keep him in one piece first."
A best-priced 20/1 for the Irish Independent Arkle Trophy at Cheltenham, Bog Warrior trades at 12/1 for both the RSA and Jewson Chases.
Martin went on to state that Dedigout, impressive when maintaining its 100pc record over hurdles for him at Navan on Saturday, would not turn out again before the new year. He added that Osirixamix, a last-fence faller with the Grade Two Hilly Way Chase at his mercy at Cork on Sunday, was none the worse for his tumble.
"It was a shame," Martin mused of the costly spill, "as it would have been a nice pot to win. But there's not a bother on him, and hopefully he'll win one somewhere along the line."
Meanwhile, JP McManus' racing manager Frank Berry has reported Binocular to be in top shape ahead of his bid for a second successive Christmas Hurdle on December 26. Outgunned by the race-fit Overturn on his reappearance in the Fighting Fifth Hurdle at Newcastle, the 2010 Champion Hurdle hero beat Don McCain's front-runner in last season's rescheduled Kempton Grade One.
"Kempton is the plan," Berry confirmed of Nicky Henderson's charge. "He came out of (Newcastle) good and is in great form. We are looking forward to Christmas."
At Newbury yesterday, Cheltenham Gold Cup aspirant Time For Rupert got back into the winner's circle with a decisive success in the Graduation Chase. The seven-year-old was ranked with the best staying novice chasers around last season, winning twice at Cheltenham before failing to sparkle when considered one of the bankers of the Festival in the RSA Chase.
Paul Webber's charge headed to Newbury with something to prove, having run disappointingly in the Betfair Chase at Haydock, albeit against the likes of Kauto Star and Long Run.
Although taking a big drop in class for this four-runner affair, the 8/15 favourite still had to do a professional job and that is exactly what he did under his new pilot Denis O'Regan. Jumping accurately at the head of affairs, he shook off the more than capable The Giant Bolster with a degree of ease to score by a length and three-quarters.
"What a relief," Webber said. "We'll go for the Argento Chase and maybe look at the Irish Hennessy as an alternative. The way he jumps, Denis thinks he could be a Grand National horse, but if he goes and wins the Argento and finishes third or fourth in the Gold Cup we'd have to be happy."
O'Regan, who was taking over from Will Kennedy, said: "It was very straightforward for me. He's a horse with a lot of class, very genuine and jumps well. He's very exciting and I'm thrilled to have the ride on him."
Colour Squadron enhanced his position as one of the top two-mile novices when gamely making all for Philip Hobbs and Richard Johnson in the two-mile maiden hurdle. Backed from 3/1 down to 7/4, the five-year-old proved just too strong for Montbazon, scoring by a length. Johnson completed a double when landing the fillies bumper on 14/1 chance Go Annie.
Ruby Walsh didn't enjoy much luck in a couple of rides for Paul Nicholls, but Barry Geraghty did have a winner aboard the impressive Broadbackbob (5/2) in the two-mile three-furlong novice hurdle.