Forpady may target Lexus as thaw sets in
The gradual onset of a nationwide thaw could result in Limerick starting their delayed festival tomorrow, 24 hours ahead of Leopardstown, with both venues subject to inspections this morning.
While unusually severe frost has turned out to be Limerick's bugbear, the course at Leopardstown -- which was still covered by up to eight inches of snow yesterday afternoon -- may not be passed fit to get their Christmas schedule under way until Wednesday.
Such a scenario at the Dublin track, which would result in the Lexus Chase not being staged until Thursday, could turn out to be a bonus for the frustrated connections of Forpadydeplasterer -- which was already safely installed at Kempton Park, along with compatriot Sizing Europe -- when further freezing temperatures overnight in London finally claimed their lucrative £200,000 King George showdown yesterday.
Sizing Europe's handler, Henry de Bromhead, who was at Kempton to hear the bad news at first hand, isn't keen on rerouting his stable star to the Foxrock circuit, but a spokesperson for Tralee trainer Tom Cooper -- suffering at home from a viral infection -- indicated that Forpadydeplasterer might well take in the Lexus promotion instead.
"It's obviously disappointing not getting a run having arrived here with the horse in such good form, but it was very frosty again last night," said De Bromhead.
"We're preparing to head back to Fishguard and it is very unlikely Sizing Europe will be going for the Lexus instead."
The Listener, Nick Mitchell's veteran performer, which initiated a quartet of successive victories for English raiders in the 2006 renewal of the Lexus Chase, has made a return trip to Leopardstown in a bid to resume where he left off at Down Royal in November last year -- when profiting most from the fall of hot favourite Notre Pere in the JNWine Champion Chase.
Irish-bred The Listener was on site yesterday as Leopardstown general manager Tom Burke and course foreman Willie Gibbons surveyed the scene in the early afternoon, when the first signs of a thaw were in evidence despite an obvious wind-chill factor.
"It felt very cold when we were out on the track although we're seeing the start of a good thaw with rain forecast to arrive later this afternoon," explained Burke.
"But we've never had so much snow staying here for so long and it's still an uphill battle for us to race on Tuesday."
Drainage work was carried out earlier this year on a section of their circuit towards the end of the back straight, which should help to cope with the amount of slush and rain that is expected to materialise when the thaw is in full flow.
In the event of the first three days there being cancelled, Horse Racing Ireland's plan B strategy would be implemented to allow for eight-race cards on Wednesday and Thursday.
Between them they would accommodate the festival's series of feature contests.
Essentially, an enhanced Wednesday programme would centre around the traditional Paddy Power-backed Grade One races, the Dial-A-Bet Chase and the Future Champions Novice Hurdle, plus the Festival Hurdle at the same level -- now adopted by the leading Irish bookmaking firm.
On Thursday, jumping fans could look forward to the Lexus Chase, the Fort Leney Novice Chase and the Woodies Christmas Hurdle as well as four of the Bord na Mona races scheduled for St Stephen's Day -- including the Graded novice 'chase and juvenile hurdle.
Leopardstown, Down Royal and Limerick are now all pencilled in for Thursday racing as the latter's hoped-for Monday fare was put back by 72 hours following yesterday morning's inspection.