Thursday 14 November 2019

Foxrock heading for Ryanair Chase instead of Gold Cup

Foxrock (right) is ready to join the already-robust Irish challenge in the Ryanair Chase at Cheltenham. Photo: Barry Cregg / SPORTSFILE
Foxrock (right) is ready to join the already-robust Irish challenge in the Ryanair Chase at Cheltenham. Photo: Barry Cregg / SPORTSFILE

Richard Forristal

Yesterday's forfeits for Cheltenham on Wednesday did little to clarify two of the most hotly debated Festival quandaries but we now know that Foxrock will be supplemented for the Ryanair Chase rather than the Gold Cup.

Ted Walsh had ruled out the possibility of putting his improving Hennessy Gold Cup runner-up in the week's marquee event.

Instead, he is to join the already robust Irish challenge in Thursday's Ryanair.

After Foxrock's owner Barry Connell explained that it made more sense to pay the £15,000 entry fee for what is a less daunting contest, the horse was introduced to the betting for the two-mile-five-furlong Grade at odds of 8/1.

The market, meanwhile, has seemingly decided that Don Poli will tackle day two's RSA Chase.

Willie Mullins' 2014 conditional jockeys' hurdle winner was backed into 5/2 clear favouritism, as the 3/1 that could be had about him yesterday morning disappeared completely.

One of 14 now remaining in the three-miler, Don Poli still has the option of the four-mile National Hunt chase on Tuesday.

However, for all that Willie and Patrick Mullins feel that the amateur riders' contest would suit him best and pave the way for the stable's Valseur Lido to tackle the RSA, Gigginstown House Stud, Michael O'Leary's flagship racing vehicle, has other factors to consider.

O'Leary, along with his brother Eddie who operates as the firm's racing manager, is believed to favour running Don Poli in the RSA and Valseur Lido in Thursday's JLT over two miles and five furlongs, as that would enable their 2014 Noel Meade-trained Albert Bartlett hero Very Wood a clean shot at the four-miler.

Don Poli has been easy to back for the longer race at up to 4/1, while Very Wood has shortened into 7/2 market leadership, which would suggest that O'Leary's preference will win out.

It is not new for a clash of opinions between Mullins and O'Leary, as they both have a large number of serious contenders that aren't always mutually shared.


Famously, O'Leary pulled rank three years ago to prevent Mullins running Sir Des Champs in the RSA. The horse won the JLT, as Gigginstown's First Lieutenant just lost out to Bobs Worth in the RSA.

As expected, the decision about which race Mark Bradstock's Coneygree will run in is likely to go to the wire, as he was left in the RSA, but connections are believed to be leaning toward supplementing him at a cost of £27,500 for a bold tilt at the Gold Cup.

Mullins has also left Valseur Lido, Vautour, Vroum Vroum Mag and Adriana Des Mottes in the RSA, with Very Wood still in there alongside Meade's Wounded Warrior, though the Co Meath handler has taken out his leading JLT contender Apache Stronghold.

All the big guns have also stood their ground for Wednesday's featured Queen Mother Champion Chase, with Mullins' Champagne Fever the leading cross-channel contender according to the market at 5/1 behind previous winners Sprinter Sacre and Sire De Grugy.

Henry de Bromhead has left open the possibility of his 2011 hero Sizing Europe running in the two-mile Grade One for a fifth time at 13 years of age.

His stablemate Special Tiara is among the 12 left standing, with Gordon Elliott's Clarcam and Tony Martin's 2014 Grand Annual victor Savello still in the mix as well.

Paddy Power have slashed the odds about Noel Fehily succeeding AP McCoy as JP McManus' retained rider to 3/1 from 20/1 following the Cork native's booking aboard the Edward O'Grady-trained Kitten Rock in Tuesday's Champion Hurdle.

The hugely respected Fehily, who has added the plum mount on John Ferguson's Supreme Novices' Hurdle contender Qewy to his exciting book of rides next week, got the nod for McManus' second string in the two-mile Grade One ahead of some more obvious contenders. He is now second in the betting for the McManus gig behind Barry Geraghty, who Powers eased from 1/6 to 1/3.

Meanwhile, ante-post favourite John F Kennedy heads the 102 entries left in this year's Investec Derby following the latest forfeit stage. The son of Galileo, which is a general 6/1 market leader, is one of 21 horses in the £1.325 million contest on June 6 for trainer Aidan O'Brien.

Irish Independent

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