Elliott hoping Triumph test goes Carlito's way
Despite all the problems caused by the bad weather, impressive Leopardstown winner Carlito Brigante remains on course for the John Smith's Scottish Triumph Hurdle Trial at Musselburgh on February 7.
Gordon Elliott's juvenile leapt to prominence in the Triumph Hurdle betting itself with a seriously impressive display in beating previous ante-post favourite Alaivan.
He strolled home for an 11-length victory in the Grade Two Juvenile Hurdle on St Stephen's Day and a trip to Scotland is now on the cards.
"He's going to go for the Triumph Hurdle Trial at Musselburgh on February 7," said Elliott. "He's in good nick, he's been very good since and he'll probably go there, all being well.
"We always thought he was a nice horse but we hadn't had him long and we didn't think he'd go and do what he did. Edward (O'Grady) had no excuses for his horse, I think the best horse won on the day."
Eoin Griffin is "hopeful rather than confident" that Kazal will make it back on to a racetrack after his latest breathing operation. The nine-year-old was third behind Inglis Drever and Kasbah Bliss in the 2008 World Hurdle but has failed to reach those heights in four subsequent runs.
If he does manage to get back on the track, a novice chase campaign is in the offing after he failed to win his only two previous runs over the bigger obstacles in 2007.
"If I don't think he is going to come back to compete at a significantly high enough level, he'll be retired. If he does come back, we'll be going chasing with him. At the moment everything is fine, I think he is probably about 60-70pc fit," said Griffin.
"He is in good form but we're getting to the stage now where we'll be increasing the intensity of his work and the next probably six to eight weeks are going to be important for him."
Easter Monday's Irish Grand National will be Oscar Time's next big target this season after his victory for trainer Martin Lynch over Christmas. Spring feels a long way away for Lynch's small team in County Westmeath, where the cold weather has been a constant menace, and immediate plans are unconfirmed for the gelding.
But following a seven-length victory in the Paddy Power Chase at Leopardstown on December 27, his trainer will have to aim high.
"We have been held up with the weather and although there is an increase in temperature now, the gallops have been frozen and we've not been able to do a lot with them," reported Lynch.
"He has been pretty good since his last run and he has got lots of options. The Irish National is his main aim but I think he is most likely to run in a hurdle next, just to see how he is."
Meanwhile, more encouraging developments on the sponsorship front for jumps racing emerged yesterday as Leopardstown announced the completion of a three-year deal with Frank Ward Solicitors for the Arkle Cup.
This well-known Dublin law firm, headed by Foxrock resident and racing enthusiast Frank Ward, had previously backed the bumper on the Hennessy Gold Cup card but were delighted to take over sponsorship of the Arkle Cup.
Sunday week's Grade One contest was won by the legendary Arkle plus stable companions Flyingbolt and Fort Leney in the 1960s. Kicking King (2004) was another subsequent Cheltenham hero to take the prize, which is regarded as an ideal preparation for the Irish Independent Arkle Trophy there in March.
Most of the leading Irish-based novice chasers, including seven entries from the Willie Mullins yard, figure among 18 possible contenders for the €80,000 event, which Britain's champion trainer Paul Nicholls intends to target with Irish-bred Take The Breeze after three unbeaten outings over fences so far.
Nicholls invariably brings some of his leading performers over to the Punchestown Festival at the end of the season and their €90,000 Ryanair Novice Chase could be on the agenda also for his charges.
Ryanair chief Michael O'Leary's Gigginstown House Stud have signed up for the next five years to back the former Swordlestown Stud Cup as the company increased the prize fund for Cheltenham's Ryanair Chase to £250,000.