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Saturday 15 December 2018

O'Connor set for Gold Cup

Your national racing review

Axiomatic with J.P.O’Rourke part company at the Bray Harriers point to point at Fairwood, Tinahely. Photo: Joe Byrne
Axiomatic with J.P.O’Rourke part company at the Bray Harriers point to point at Fairwood, Tinahely. Photo: Joe Byrne

Horse racing round-up

Derek O'Connor To Ride In Cheltenham Gold Cup - Top point-to-point rider Derek O'Connor is to partner Edwulf for owner JP McManus and trainer Joseph O'Brien in the Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup on Friday week.

The partnership secured a memorable 33/1 success in last month's Unibet Irish Gold Cup at Leopardstown on Dublin Racing Festival weekend.

McManus's retained jockey Barry Geraghty has not ridden Edwulf in his last eight races, and the decision has been taken to leave O'Connor on the horse.

McManus's racing manager Frank Berry said, "I'm sure that's the plan. Derek won on him the last day, and Barry will ride either Minella Rocco or Anibale Fly."

Derek is chasing a fourth Festival success. He enjoyed at Cheltenham double in 2011 when winning the Foxhunter Chase on Zemsky and the National Hunt Chase on Chicago Grey and won the latter race for a second time in 2016 on Minella Rocco, a Gold Cup contender this year. Dundalk will also race on Monday, March 12.

Meetings Rearranged After Weather Wipe-Out - Four of the five race meetings lost to the weather last week have been rearranged for the coming days.

Heavy snow put paid to fixtures at Clonmel last Thursday, the all-weather meeting at Dundalk on Friday and the weekend fixtures at Navan and Leopardstown.

Dundalk's card has been transferred to this coming Friday night and will include the Listed Patton Stakes.

On the same day, Leopardstown will run off their meeting that was postponed last Sunday.

The meeting at Leopardstown that was supposed to have taken place on Monday will not be rescheduled but a number of races from the meeting will be transferred elsewhere.

The meeting that was due to be held at Navan on Saturday will now be held this Thursday while last Thursday's meeting at Clonmel will now be held on Tuesday, March 20.

Stable Employee Pension Scheme in Full Progress - The new defined contribution pension scheme for stable staff in the Republic of Ireland, aimed at providing a meaningful benefit at retirement for eligible employees, is now up and running.

Stable staff who sent in their application forms in 2017 have already received notification of their funds from Irish Life.

Stable staff who are eligible members and have not completed their application are urged to do so as soon as possible.

The scheme, which is funded by a deduction from the trainers' proportion of prizemoney, means that staff who benefit from the scheme do not need to contribute.

Trainers are also urged to complete data returns for 2015 and 2016 to allow further funding to be applied to their eligible employees' pension accounts for those years.

New members may also come into the scheme for those years. Alternative equivalent arrangements are being put in place for eligible stable staff in Northern Ireland through their mandatory UK pensions.

O'Brien Star Heading To Dundalk On Friday - Mendelssohn, the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf winner and one of Aidan O'Brien's nominations for the Kentucky Derby in May, is likely to make his reappearance in the rescheduled Listed Patton Stakes at Dundalk on Friday evening.

The race has been increased in distance from seven furlongs to a mile and forms part of the European 'Road to the Kentucky Derby' series. O'Brien said over the weekend, "We've Mendelssohn, Seahenge and Threeandfourpence entered for another race in the series at Kempton on Wednesday and it's possible that one of them - maybe Threeandfourpence - will run there and that the other two will run at Dundalk.

"We'll see what the weather does over the next few days and if there's a doubt about Kempton going ahead then all three could go to Dundalk."

Blow For Elliott As Cracking Smart Picks Up Injury - Leading novice hurdler Cracking Smart has suffered a setback and will be side-lined for the remainder of the season.

Trainer Gordon Elliott had been preparing the Grade Two-winner for the Albert Bartlett Novices' Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival.

But the County Meath handler revealed on Saturday that the six-year-old will not be part of his raiding party.

"Unfortunately, Cracking Smart had a setback, so he is out of the Albert Bartlett and will not run for the remainder of the season."

Ruby On-Course For Cheltenham Festival Return - Ruby Walsh, the leading current rider at the Cheltenham Festival, is on course for an imminent return to action.

Walsh has been out since breaking his leg in a fall in November but has been back riding work in the last two weeks as he gears up to be back ahead of the Cheltenham Festival.

However, with no jump racing all last week any possible comeback was scuppered by the weather.

"In my quest to be ready for the Festival, the weather doesn't help or hinder me. I would have hoped to have ridden the weekend, but it didn't take a scientist to figure out there would be no racing and so that would not be happening. The clinic at Santry is closed, but I'm still tipping away, doing as much as I can. I can still use the simulator, and still jog, and so am still on course," said Walsh.

Student Summer Internships On Offer From Horse Racing Ireland - There are four Student Summer Internships on offer from Horse Racing Ireland this year.

Open to all Third Level students the paid placements commence in June and run over a 10 to 12-week period.

Students will benefit from mentoring by experienced professionals while developing their practical skills and gaining valuable experience in all aspects of the racing industry including marketing, communications, social media, sales, racecourse operations, race day planning and event management.

Three of the four interns will be based in HRI Head Office at Ballymany, Kildare and the fourth intern will be based at Leopardstown Racecourse.

Further details and application form are available at www.hri.ie/work-with-hri/internships. Closing date for applications is March 23, 2018.

Upcoming Fixtures

Thurles - Thursday, March 8 (First race at 2.15pm); Navan - Thursday, March 8 (First race at 2.05pm); Leopardstown - Friday, March 9 (First race at 1.55pm); Dundalk - Friday, March 9 (First race at 6pm); Gowran Park - Saturday, March 10 (First race at 1.55pm); Naas - Sunday, March 11 (First race 2.10pm); Dundalk - Monday, March 12 (First race at 2pm - To Be Confirmed).

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