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Al systems go for Haydock says McCain

WEIRD Al is on course to make his seasonal reappearance in the Betfair Chase at Haydock on Saturday.

The lightly raced nine-year-old finished 10 lengths behind Kauto Star last season after an easy win in the Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby.

Donald McCain's charge failed to complete in his final two starts last term, but is reportedly in rude health for his comeback.

McCain said: "He is in grand form and I am very happy with him.

"You would not be confident on Saturday when you are taking on horses of that quality but we would be hopeful he runs a big race."

Cheltenham Gold Cup winners Long Run and Imperial Commander also appear amongst the nine entries.

Hurricane Fly is likely to make his next appearance in the Istabraq Festival Hurdle at Leopardstown on December 29 after emerging safe and sound from his comeback run at the weekend.

Willie Mullins' slick two-miler has not been the easiest horse to train and lost his Champion Hurdle crown to Rock On Ruby last March.

He bounced back at the Punchestown Festival and returned to the County Kildare course on Sunday for the Dobbins & Madigans @ Punchestown Morgiana Hurdle.

"I was more than happy with the run," said Mullins. "I'd say he will probably go to Leopardstown after Christmas now."

Grands Crus is to be treated shortly for a breathing issue detected after his ordinary run ing Saturday's Paddy Power Gold Cup at Cheltenham.

Oscars Well is said to be "sound but sore" following his heavy fall at Punchestown on Sunday.

The Grade One-winning hurdler took a nasty tumble in the Craddockstown Novice Chase won by Twinlight.

"We'll leave him this week and see how he is before thinking what to do with him next," said trainer Jessica Harrington.

Queen Mother Champion Chase hero Finian's Rainbow has been entered for a first start of the season in the Amlin 1965 Chase at Ascot on Saturday.

Finian's Rainbow could have a testing comeback, though, as Nick Williams has entered his impressive Aintree winner For Non Stop.

Noel Meade has not totally ruled out a crack at Newcastle's StanJames.com Fighting Fifth Hurdle with Go Native despite his fall on Sunday.

Dessie Hughes is hoping Magnanimity can gain a confidence-boosting success at Thurles a week on Thursday before stepping him back up in grade.

"There's a conditions race in Thurles on Thursday week. Hopefully he'll go for that and win it," said the Curragh handler.

Road To Riches could step straight into Grade One company following his impressive hurdling debut at Punchestown on Sunday.

Trainer Noel Meade is now eyeing the Barry And Sandra Kelly Memorial Novice Hurdle at Navan next month.

Tim Vaughan plans to have Saint Are cherry-ripe for his first run of the season in the Hennessy Gold Cup at Newbury on December 1.

"He loves a flat, galloping track. He's run well at Newbury in the past and has obviously run well at Aintree and they are not massively dissimilar," Vaughan said.

A shoulder problem is not expected to affect Dunaden's defence of next month's Longines Hong Kong Vase.

Dessie Hughes may wait until Christmas to give Minsk his second run of the campaign after the four-year-old opened his account over hurdles at Punchestown on Saturday.

The gelding holds an entry in the Bar One Racing Royal Bond Novice Hurdle at Fairyhouse on December 2, but Hughes feels that race might come too soon.

TODAY'S WEXFORD OFF: Today's National Hunt meeting at Wexford has been cancelled following an inspection.

Although the track was raceable following a Monday afternoon assessment, heavy rain had left the track partially waterlogged earlier in the day and a further 11 millimetres of rain fell overnight.


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