Thursday 14 December 2017

English handicapper ruins rugby stars' dreams

Leinster flanker Dominic Ryan:
Leinster flanker Dominic Ryan: "Our Irish rating would be enough to get in at the bottom of most Kim Muirs, but we've been given a UK rating of 132 which means we will not get in."

Johnny Ward

Two rugby stars' quest for a Cheltenham winner seems to have run aground because of a bizarre move by the British handicapper.

Bordeaux's Ian Madigan and Leinster's Dominic Ryan are part-owners of The Crafty Butcher, an agonising second in the Paddy Power Handicap Chase at Leopardstown at Christmas.

That run saw senior Irish handicapper Noel O'Brien promote the horse from a mark of 127 to 135. And while his English counterpart, Phil Smith, is frequently berated for giving Irish horses much higher figures across the water, The Crafty Butcher has been put in at a 3lb lower mark over there.

Normally seen as a boost for a horse's prospects, this ensures that the Willie Mullins-trained horse has little chance of getting into next month's Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Handicap Chase, which left Ryan gutted at his dream of a winner at the Festival being dashed.

The Leinster star said: "Our Irish rating would be enough to get in at the bottom of most Kim Muirs, but we've been given a UK rating of 132 which means we will not get in.

"We were expecting to get an increase on our Irish rating: that seems to be the case 99 per cent of the time. This is obviously disappointing - a Cheltenham runner would have been great.

"It's especially strange given we're talking about one trained by Willie."

Trainer Pat Kelly has a different concern. Mall Dini is being aimed at the Kim Muir too and he got a rating of 142 in his homeland but a 4lb hike in Britain would take him out of the race, restricted to those rated 145 or lower.

The Craughwell, Co Galway handler is likely to know his fate next week. He's not keen on running the horse in the Centenary Novices' Handicap Chase, for which bookmakers have had him towards the top of the market. Mall Dini was a winner over hurdles at Cheltenham last March and is owned by Philip Reynolds, son of former Taoiseach, Albert.

Smith was criticised lately by trainer Colin Kidd after Rashaan was given a staggering 15lbs higher rating in Britain than he has in Ireland.

Smith's handicapping skills will be put to the test in Saturday's Betfair Hurdle at Newbury, for which 16 have been declared. Krugermac, Kapstadt, Renneti and Consul De Thaix were all taken out yesterday.

Meanwhile, legendary Flat rider Walter Swinburn - synonymous with the great Shergar - lost his life as a result of a tragic accident at his London home, a coroner concluded yesterday. Swinburn passed away in December.

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