Champion Chase still on Forpady's agenda - Cooper
Forpadydeplasterer, which was 10 days ago reported to be out of contention for the Queen Mother Champion Chase at next month's Cheltenham Festival, may yet get the chance to thwart Master Minded's bid for a hat-trick of wins in the two-mile chasing crown.
A representative of the Goat Racing Syndicate that owns Forpadydeplasterer had stated that last season's Irish Independent Arkle Challenge Trophy hero would miss the race due to lameness but the horse's handler, Tom Cooper, is now mildly optimistic that he will fulfil his St Patrick's Day engagement.
Speaking yesterday from his Tralee base, Cooper said: "Forpadydeplasterer has been swimming for the last 10 days and cantered the last three, and if he stays in one piece we might take him up to the Old Vic gallop on the Curragh for a piece of work on Friday morning. If that were to go well, then we could start thinking about Cheltenham again -- but he has to stay sound."
Removed from bookmakers' Champion Chase ante-post lists -- though still available to back on some of the betting exchanges -- in light of the bruised foot that led to his bout of lameness, Forpadydeplasterer would add genuine substance to the overall Irish challenge if he were to make a full recovery in time for Cheltenham.
Three times a runner-up -- including when chasing home Master Minded's stablemate Twist Magic in the Tingle Creek Chase in December -- since landing a thrilling renewal of last year's Arkle Chase, the prospect of some decent ground at Prestbury Park would again be expected to bring out the best in the eight-year-old.
Cooper, who was keen to emphasise how crucial the next few days will be in deciding whether or not Forpadydeplasterer can be aimed at Cheltenham, doesn't expect fitness to be a problem if the horse's foot holds up.
"We weren't able to put a saddle on Forpady for 10 days," he said, "but we got one on him on Monday again and that leaves us with four weeks to get him ready. We're not getting too excited yet, but if we get a good piece of work into him on Friday and he came out of it okay, that would give us a chance. He is a very clean-winded horse, so that will stand to him."
One horse definitely not going to Cheltenham is Binocular, which has been ruled out of the Champion Hurdle due to a muscle problem.
Nicky Henderson's charge finished third behind stablemate Punjabi in the Cheltenham feature last term and had been the favourite to claim the crown at the start of the season. However, an odds-on disappointment on his reappearance in the Fighting Fifth at Newcastle last November was followed by another defeat, albeit a narrow one, in the Christmas Hurdle at Kempton.
Binocular bounced back to winning ways in a moderate event at Sandown, but despite his easy success, Henderson was not satisfied and the six-year-old underwent a full examination.
"He's completely sound but a minor, yet significant, muscle problem has been diagnosed and explains our concerns," Henderson said. "We feel we don't have sufficient time to treat this in order for him to do himself justice in the Champion Hurdle."
Binocular's defection leaves 23 in the big race, including his stablemates Punjabi, last year's winner, and 2009 Triumph Hurdle victor Zaynar, an intended runner in the Morebattle Hurdle at Kelso today.
Leading a 15-strong Irish entry are Noel Meade's Go Native, which is chasing the £1m WBX Hurdling Triple Crown, and the Charles Byrnes-trained Solwhit. There were no surprises among 10 earlier withdrawals, including 2008 winner Katchit and Hurricane Fly.
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