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Captain Cee Bee heading for County

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Trainer Eddie Harty and his horse Captain Cee Bee

Trainer Eddie Harty and his horse Captain Cee Bee

Trainer Eddie Harty and his horse Captain Cee Bee

AFTER getting closer to dual Champion Hurdler Hurricane Fly at Leopardstown last time than ever before, Eddie Harty's 13-year-old Captain Cee Bee is one of 36 Irish-trained entries for the Vincent O'Brien County Hurdle at Cheltenham next month.

The weights for the famous two-mile handicap hurdle will be published next Wednesday and it will be interesting to see how the JP McManus-owned veteran is treated in a race that was for so long the Festival grand finale.

Successful in the Supreme Novices' Hurdle in 2008, Captain Cee Bee also finished third behind Sizing Europe and Big Zeb in the 2011 Queen Mother Champion Chase.

He has been campaigned over flights for the past two years and defied his advancing years to get within three lengths of Willie Mullins' equine superstar when third in the BHP Irish Champion Hurdle last month after cutting out much of the running.

His new-found proximity to Hurricane Fly was seen by some as a flaw in the form, but the Irish handicapper Noel O'Brien subsequently raised his rating from 149 to 152.

That figure would have seen him get in 2lb below the top-weight in last year's County, which Tony Martin's Ted Veale claimed to secure a fourth successive Irish-trained win and a sixth in seven years.

Ted Veale is currently the 8/1 clear favourite for the Grand Annual, the two-mile handicap chase that now brings the curtain down on the four-day gala.

Tom Mullins' McManus-owned Alderwood, triumphant in last year's Grand Annual and in the 2012 County, is also among the 16 potential raiders for the two-mile chase, as is the Limerick's native's smart Noel Meade-trained novice, Ned Buntline.

Philip Fenton has entered his sensational 2009 Champion Bumper hero Dunguib in both the County and the Coral Cup over two miles and five furlongs.

The Carrick-on-Suir-based handler's travelling contingent was dealt a blow yesterday by Barry Connell's decision to rule The Tullow Tank and Volvalien out of their respective potential Grade One targets in the Cotswolds due to "uncertainty surrounding the deferral of legal proceedings," following the adjournment of Fenton's court hearing for possession of anabolic steroids.

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It also emerged yesterday that Connell's 2011 Cesarewitch victor Minsk had to be put down after picking up a serious infection at Dessie Hughes' yard last weekend.

Dunguib completed a remarkable comeback after nearly three years off by running out a decisive winner of the Grade Two Boyne Hurdle at Navan on Sunday and the 11-year-old Presenting gelding is as low as 12/1 joint-favourite to claim further Festival glory in the Coral Cup.

Last year's Peter Maher-trained cross-country chase winner Big Shu (9/2 favourite) is one of 20 Irish entries in this year's novelty affair, with the overall list of initial Irish-trained entrants for the 11 handicaps clocking in at 257, the second highest figure after 2013's 302 since the new programme began in 2005.

Meanwhile, Grade One-winning chaser Rubi Light trailed home last of five runners as the father-son combination Willie and Patrick Mullins claimed the Munster Hurdle at Clonmel with Perfect Gentleman.

Since making a pleasing return to action behind Sizing Europe at Gowran Park, Robbie Hennessy's Rubi Light has been well beaten twice by Arvika Ligeonniere and disappointed again in the Dial-A-Bet Chase at Leopardstown in December.

Returned to the smaller obstacles for the first time in almost four years, the nine-year-old looked to have a good opportunity to get some confidence back at odds of 11/2, but was under pressure some way from home under Andrew Lynch and weakened tamely in the run-in.

It did not take long for the champion trainer to complete a double as Don Poli stretched clear of his rivals to record an impressive victory at 9/2 under Bryan Cooper.

Gordon Elliott's 5/2 favourite Moonshine Lad was in trouble from an early stage before eventually being pulled up.

Mick Halford and David Marnane continued their fantastic respective forays at the Dubai Carnival.

Halford and Shane Foley plundered a fourth win at the Meydan festival when Eastern Rules (5/1) scored for a second time, before Elleval (16/1) gave Marnane and Fergal Lynch their third in a valuable handicap.


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