Saturday 21 April 2018

'Vroum' retired as Top Notch misses Festival target

Vroum Vroum Mag, ridden by Ruby Walsh Photo: PA
Vroum Vroum Mag, ridden by Ruby Walsh Photo: PA

Michael Verney

Vroum Vroum Mag was one of the big absentees at the six-day forfeit stage for the Cheltenham Festival with Willie Mullins' nine-year-old mare retired after failing to sparkle at Closutton.

Regular rider Ruby Walsh led the tributes for Vroum Vroum Mag - which won 14 of her 21 races and claimed the Mares' Hurdle at the 2016 Festival - describing her as "a versatile mare with a great attitude, equally comfortable over fences or hurdles at any distance".

She was not the only high-profile Cheltenham casualty, however, with Nicky Henderson last night ruling out Ryanair Chase hopeful Top Notch - runner-up to Mullins' Yorkhill in the JLT Novices' Chase last year.

Winner of the rearranged Grade Two Peterborough Chase at Taunton before finishing fourth behind Waiting Patiently in the Ascot Chase, Henderson was not happy with that display and his subsequent home work at Seven Barrows, so he decided to rule the seven-year-old out of the Festival.

"We have to conclude that his run in the Ascot Chase last time was slightly disappointing and Sarah Shreeve, who rides him every single day and knows the horse inside out, said she felt he's been a bit too quiet in himself and isn't his usual perky self, so we have made the decision to skip Cheltenham," Henderson said.

Meanwhile, Alan King has supplemented Grade Two Kingwell Hurdle winner Elgin for the Champion Hurdle - at a cost of just over €22,000 - having enjoyed an impressive season thus far including victory in the Greatwood Hurdle at Wincanton.

"I think he deserves to take his chance. He is rated 161 and that is higher than three of the first six last year and you can't run in a handicap now off that mark. He goes in any sort of ground," King said of the six-year-old.

"If you take the favourite (Buveur D'Air) out, it is wide open after that. He has progressed right the way through. He is much more the finished article this year. He learned a lot from running in the Supreme (Novices' Hurdle) last season.

"He had never been so quick and I think that made a man of him and he did very well through the summer. He was scoped on Monday and that was all good and he worked well this morning."

Elgin is one of 15 confirmations for the 2m showpiece with defending champion Buveur D'Air one of four contenders for Henderson along with three-time Champion Hurdle runner-up My Tent Or Yours, Charli Parcs and Verdana Blue.

Faugheen leads a five-pronged attack by Mullins along with Melon, Min (which is likely to tackle the Champion Chase instead), Wicklow Brave and Yorkhill, while Gordon Elliott is represented by Ryanair Hurdle winner Mick Jazz and Apple's Jade, although the latter is expected to contest the OLBG Mares' Hurdle.

Irish Independent

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