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Byrnes warns Sol not as good

Charles Byrnes feels Solwhit is not as forward as he was 12 months ago ahead of his bid for a second successive victory in the Dobbins & Madigans at Punchestown Hurdle tomorrow.

The six-year-old's success in last year's renewal kickstarted a campaign that also yielded triumphs in the December Festival Hurdle and the Irish Champion Hurdle.

"He's in good shape, but he wouldn't be quite as straight as he was this time last year," said Byrnes.

"He came in from grass carrying a lot of weight and it's taking a lot of work to get it off him. His work suggests he's just not quite as forward."

Noel Meade has in recent seasons trained Harchibald, Iktitaf and Jazz Messenger to win this prize, with this year's representative Donnas Palm.

"He's in good shape and he's ready to go," said the Co Meath handler.

"I don't know what ground he's best on but he seems to handle anything and even though there's only four runners, all four of them have a chance."

Voler La Vedette is in receipt of 5lb from her male counterparts and impressed on her seasonal reappearance at the track a month ago.

Robbie Hennessy's 2007 Champion Hurdle winner Sublimity completes the quartet and while the trainer is delighted with his current condition, the testing ground is a concern.



Bruised

Captain Chris will bid to repair his slightly bruised reputation in the Independent Newspaper Novices' Chase at Cheltenham tomorrow.

The six-year-old last season looked destined for the top when blowing away his rivals in three starts over timber, but let down favourite-backers on his seasonal reappearance in Chepstow's Persian War Novices' Hurdle.

Trainer Philip Hobbs said: "He has schooled very well over fences since the Persian War Hurdle. His main problem is his breathing. He will run with a tongue-tie, hopefully that will help."

Meanwhile, Ed Dunlop is delighted with Snow Fairy ahead of her run in the Queen Elizabeth II Commemorative Cup at Kyoto in Japan tomorrow.

The dual Oaks winner was last seen failing to stay the trip in the St Leger but drops back to one mile and three furlongs this weekend.

"The filly seems in good shape and we are pleased with the way things are going so far," said Dunlop. "It's a learning curve so we'll see how she is but so far everything has been lovely."



Stars

Philip Hobbs is confident Menorah can follow in the hoofprints of former stars Rooster Booster and Detroit City by claiming the Greatwood Hurdle at Cheltenham tomorrow.

Like that pair, last season's Supreme Novices' Hurdle hero Menorah will carry top weight this weekend.

"He is very, very well. He is only five and we hope he has improved from last season," said Hobbs.

"We had a couple of blips last season, which is a reason why we have not run him in anything else this season.

The Paul Nicholls-trained Sanctuaire heads the market and returns to the scene of his blistering display in the Fred Winter Juvenile Hurdle at the Festival in March.

"He's in good form and this has been his target ever since he came in," said the champion trainer. "He appears to be a different horse at home as he's much more settled and more mature.

"We're hopeful of a good run from him, but it's a hot-looking handicap."


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