Friday 19 January 2018

Captain to swerve Irish Arkle after festive fall

Punjabi, winner of last year's Champion Hurdle under Barry Geraghty, will make his seasonal comeback on Saturday if Ffos Las beats the weather. Photo: Getty Images
Punjabi, winner of last year's Champion Hurdle under Barry Geraghty, will make his seasonal comeback on Saturday if Ffos Las beats the weather. Photo: Getty Images

Thomas Kelly

FOLLOWING his dramatic final-fence fall at Leopardstown, Captain Cee Bee will swerve the Irish Arkle at the track later this month as his preparation builds up towards the Irish Independent-sponsored equivalent at Cheltenham in March.

It was expected that the JP McManus-owned gelding would attempt to get back on track in the Irish Arkle on January 24, but trainer Eddie Harty said yesterday that he wanted to give his charge more time to recover from his mishap when challenging Sizing Europe in the Bord Na Mona Chase.

"There is a 'winners of two' novice at Naas on February 6 and my plan is to run him in that instead. It fits in nicely and allows me to give him the full fortnight off since Leopardstown," said Harty.

"He has been back in training since September and it's a long time between then and Cheltenham without a break. The Naas race will leave us with just over five weeks (before Cheltenham), which is ideal time-wise."

Winner of the Supreme Novices Hurdle at Cheltenham in 2008, Captain Cee Bee was an impressive winner on his chase debut at Naas and is 6/1 second favourite for the Irish Independent Arkle Trophy.

Reigning Champion Hurdler Punjabi heads 12 entries for the SIS Live Welsh Champion Hurdle at Ffos Las on Saturday. Last season's Cheltenham hero, trained by Nicky Henderson, could have his second race of the winter, having finished fourth to Khyber Kim in the International last month.

Alan King's Medermit, who was eight lengths ahead of Punjabi in that race, could renew rivalry.

There are three possibles from this side of the Irish Sea -- Noel Meade's Donnas Palm, James Morrissey's De Valira and Won In The Dark from Sabrina Harty's stable.

Completing the dozen are Blue Bajan, Dreams Jewel, Mutual Friend, Nortonthorpe Lad, Red Moloney, Treaty Flyer and William Hogarth.


Paddy Power have installed Punjabi as the 10/11 favourite with Medermit next best at 11/4.

Meanwhile, Tom Mullins is at a loss to explain Some Present's hugely disappointing display in the Future Champions Novice Hurdle at Leopardstown over the festive period.

Last season's Champion Bumper runner-up made a winning debut over obstacles at Punchestown in October and then filled the runner-up spot on his next three starts -- including behind Dunguib in the Royal Bond Novice Hurdle at Fairyhouse.

That performance meant he was sent off favourite to gain a first Grade One success on December 27, but he trailed home a well-beaten sixth of the eight runners.

"Nothing at all has come to light really and all the tests he had done have come back A1, so I really can't put my finger on it at the moment," said Mullins.

"Davy (Russell) said he didn't feel right on the day and we just don't know what the problem was.

"He seems fine at the moment. I do think he's a class horse, but that last run has just knocked us back a bit."

Mullins also had word of his leading staying hurdler, confirming that the Cleeve Hurdle at Cheltenham is under consideration for Oscar Dan Dan following his fine effort in defeat at Leopardstown over Christmas.

The eight-year-old has enjoyed a productive season so far, winning a conditions hurdle at Thurles, the Grade One Hatton's Grace at Fairyhouse and chasing home Powerstation in the Christmas Hurdle.

While Big Buck's is seemingly way ahead of the rest in the staying hurdle division, Mullins feels Oscar Dan Dan is capable of mixing it with the rest and he may travel to Prestbury Park on January 30 in readiness for a crack at the World Hurdle.

Welsh Champion Hurdle, Paddy Power bet: 10/11 Punjabi, 11/4 Medermit, 100/30 Donnas Palm, 16/1 Blue Bajan, 20/1 Red Moloney, 25/1 Mutual Friend, De Valira, 33/1 bar.

Irish Independent

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