Last Instalment on target for January return
Just 24 hours after ruling his 2009 Cheltenham Bumper hero Dunguib out for a second season, Philip Fenton was cautiously optimistic that Last Instalment will be fit to return from his injury in the new year.
The unbeaten chaser, defeated just once in eight completed starts following a 15-length triumph in a Lemonfield point-to-point in March 2010, is considered a leading contender for next year's Cheltenham Gold Cup.
However, the Gigginstown Stud-owned seven-year-old has not run since jarring his tendons when recording a second successive Leopardstown Grade One victory in the Dr PJ Moriarty Chase in February.
"He's in good shape but I wouldn't have thought he'd be running until January time," Fenton said of Last Instalment. "Crucially, his tendons seem fine at the moment, that's the main thing. We haven't got as far as picking out a race for him -- I expect we'll have to sit down in the next six to eight weeks and pick out a target."
As low as 14/1 with one firm for Cheltenham glory in a race that last went the way of an Irish horse when Gigginstown's War Of Attrition obliged in 2006, the gelding is as big as 25/1 with another.
Along with the Willie Mullins-trained market leader Sir Des Champs (6/1) and 16/1 shot First Lieutenant -- which represents War Of Attrition's Fethard handler Mouse Morris -- Last Instalment is one of three exciting Gold Cup hopes that sport Michael O'Leary's colours.
Given the paucity of legitimate Irish challengers in jump racing's most cherished steeplechase of late, there is now the makings of a formidable team, with Peter Casey's Flemenstar another boasting huge potential. A top-priced 12/1 for the March showpiece, he is expected to reappear in the Fortria Chase at Navan on November 11.
First Lieutenant, a ring-rusty fourth on his Gowran return, holds an entry along with stablemate Rathlin in Monday's Poplar Chase at Naas, where potential rivals also include John 'Shark' Hanlon's Hidden Cyclone.
On the Flat, Aidan O'Brien has declared only Kingsbarns for the final English Group One of the year at Doncaster tomorrow. Heavily backed into 2/1 favouritism for the one-mile contest that Camelot won so readily for O'Brien last year, the easy Navan winner will be joined in the seven-runner line-up by Jim Bolger's Trading Leather (11/4) and Andy Oliver's First Cornerstone (10/1).
Meanwhile, Ballydoyle stalwart Colm O'Donoghue, who will bid to add to his already impressive international CV when partnering Marco Botti's Jakkalberry in the Melbourne Cup on Tuesday week, is to spend part of the winter in Japan after it was confirmed that he and Christophe Soumillon have been issued short-term licences.