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Temp Head - PAUL NICHOLLS and Ruby Walsh

PAUL NICHOLLS and Ruby Walsh will be reunited when Tidal Bay tackles the Hennessy Gold Cup at Leopardstown on Sunday.

Walsh became available after his intended mount, the Willie Mullins-trained Rubi Ball, was a surprising absentee from the five-day declarations for the Grade One feature, returning lame from a schooling session at Punchestown.

With Boston Bob, owned like Tidal Bay by Graham Wylie, also taken out Mullins was left without a runner and Walsh was suddenly hot property.

It was his former boss Nicholls, who until this season had shared Walsh's services with Mullins, who was first to snap him up for the veteran Tidal Bay.

The 13-year-old ran a blinder in the Welsh Grand National to show he has lost none of his ability and on his only previous visit to Leopardstown he won the Lexus Chase.

"We've decided to go to Ireland with Tidal," said Nicholls. "It's a small field, good prize money, he's one from one at the track and he'll get his ground.

"Of course Ruby being available also helps, so it has worked out for us.

"Mr Wylie will have some other runners on the card as well so it made sense to run really."

Mullins and Walsh were delighted with Rubi Ball's run in the Lexus and had been looking forward to seeing him run again this weekend.

After filling the runner-up spot over hurdles at Thurles on his Irish debut, the nine-year-old performed with plenty of credit to finish third behind Bobs Worth in the Lexus Chase at Leopardstown in December.

Mullins said: "Unfortunately I've had to take Rubi Ball out as he came back lame after schooling at Punchestown on Sunday.

"We were delighted with the way he worked at Punchestown, so it's very disappointing he's not going to be able to run in Leopardstown.

"I've taken Boston Bob out of the Hennessy as well, so we won't have a runner in the race, unfortunately."

Rubi Ball's defection leaves a field of seven possible runners, with Lexus runner-up First Lieutenant the likely favourite for Mouse Morris.

Morris said: "He is all set to run on Sunday. He is in great form and this race has been the plan since he ran at Christmas time."

First Lieutenant's owners, Gigginstown House Stud, have a formidable hand with Philip Fenton's Last Instalment and the Gordon Elliott-trained Roi Du Mee also in contention.

Jim Culloty's Lord Windermere, Dessie Hughes' Lyreen Legend and the Noel Meade-trained Texas Jack complete the confirmations.

Willie Mullins plans to run Smashing in the Betfair Hurdle at Newbury on Saturday.The €130,000 French recruit is unbeaten in two starts for Ireland's champion trainer, following up an impressive Fairyhouse success with a similarly dominant display at Limerick on St Stephen's Day.

CLONMEL'S jumps card tomorrow has been cancelled due to a waterlogged track.

Officials at the Tipperary circuit were faced with a relatively straightforward call following an inspection at just before 10am this morning.

Thirty-eight millimetres of rainfall within the last two days put paid to any notion of racing.

TAUNTON has also been declared a washout tomorrow. The Somerset venue sustained a whopping 23 millimetres of overnight rainfall, with another 12mm forecast this morning.

Taunton's officials reported "significant waterlogged areas" following an early-morning inspection.