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Festival fallout from Naas delay

Horse Racing Ireland yesterday rescheduled the three graded races that were cancelled on Sunday when the meeting at Naas fell foul of a covering of snow, although the revival of the races is a shade too late for trainers planning a run at Cheltenham.

The Grade 2 Nas Na Riogh Novice Chase, which was due to feature the Henry de Bromhead-trained Arkle winner An Cathaoir Mor, will now take place on Friday at Thurles, while the Johnstown Novice Hurdle has been slotted onto Saturday's Navan card. The Grade 2 Newlands Chase will be held at Leopardstown on Sunday.

Edward O'Grady's Paddy Power Gold Cup winner, Tranquil Sea, was due to head the line-up in the Newlands Chase, but the trainer has revealed that he will give his charge a final racecourse gallop instead of having another race before going across to the Festival.

Carlow trainer Tom Mullins was another whose plans were affected by the unexpected snowfall at the weekend. But the inconvenience has failed to dampen his confidence in Champion Bumper hopeful Tavern Times who was set to line up at the Kildare track on Sunday but will now head straight to the Cotswolds.

"It's unfortunate Naas was abandoned as we would have liked to run him there, but he'll probably go straight to Cheltenham now," said Mullins, who saddled Some Present to finish second to Dunguib in last year's renewal. "He's a real class horse and has been working very well recently. We've taken him to the Curragh for a few bits of work and he has always been very good."

Tavern Times was an impressive winner on his debut at Fairyhouse under Patrick Mullins and Tom is hopeful that he can get the son of Presenting to Cheltenham in the same form and he also feels the horse is overpriced.

"I think he's improved a fair bit since his first run and we just hope the bubble doesn't burst in Cheltenham -- but I do fancy him quite a bit. I haven't seen anything that has run yet to frighten me too much.

"He's 14/1 at the moment and looks a good bet at that," he concluded.


Mullins' Some Present is set to return to Cheltenham where he put up such a creditable performance last year, although on his return he looks set to head for the 2m5f Neptune Investments Novices' Hurdle rather than a rematch with Dunguib, who he has finished second and third to this season. The last of which was when third, beaten 13 lengths in the Deloitte Novice Hurdle.

"His last run was alright and was much better than what he produced over Christmas, which was very disappointing," admitted Mullins.

"That said, he was still beaten just over 13 lengths by Dunguib and if he was at his best he could get closer. I think he is on the way back and is coming to himself more every day, so we're still planning to go to Cheltenham.

"Obviously we don't really want to bump into Dunguib again and I don't think the trip will be a problem to him."