Meade gives Muirhead Ascot shot
Muirhead, a smooth victor over Bideford Legend in the Munster National three weeks ago, yesterday got the go-ahead from Noel Meade to renew his rivalry with the Charles Byrnes-trained runner-up in Saturday's feature chase at Ascot.
The former Grade One-winning hurdler sluiced up in the Limerick showpiece under Paul Carberry, a win that earned him an 11lb hike in the domestic ratings. He has been handed an additional 4lbs by the English handicapper in the United House Gold Cup, leaving him with 11st 5lb to carry for a mark of 147.
With Bideford Legend receiving just 2lbs extra for crossing the Irish Sea, he is set to carry 11st 3lb, which would see him meet Muirhead on 8lb better terms than when they clashed at Limerick.
"I think, if all is well, we will still travel," Meade said of Muirhead.
"Obviously, I'd be happier if he got in off his Irish rating, but I think we will let him take his chance. It looks like the ground will be good there, and that is one of the reasons we want to go."
Byrnes expressed his intention to run Bideford Legend, likewise believing the ground at Ascot, currently described as good, would be "very much in his favour".
Meade also stated a decision on Realt Dubh's participation in the Grade Three Poplar Chase at Naas on Saturday would be made this morning. In the event that both Realt Dubh and Muirhead fulfil their engagements, he said that he would leave it to stable jockey Carberry to decide which one to ride.
Ruby Walsh's decision to curb his trips across the Irish Sea cost him a winner yesterday as the Paul Nicholls-trained Prospect Wells made a winning debut over jumps at Chepstow.
The success of the former smart Flat racer proved the perfect start for Graham Wylie's new partnership with Nicholls, as Prospect Wells was among the horses which leading owner Wylie transferred to the champion handler when his long-time trainer Howard Johnson was banned for four years.
The horse almost died following complications after a gelding operation, but all that is clearly well behind him. The six-year-old looks to have a bright future after landing the opening novices hurdle in the hands of Daryl Jacob.
"That was very pleasing -- he's a lovely horse and has tons of ability, but it took a long time to get him ready to run over jumps. He wasn't very good when Howard (Johnson) was first trying him out," said Wylie.
"All credit to Paul Nicholls for getting him to win today, but also to Howard Johnson for saving his life because he had great problems with his operations. He's a lovely prospect, so we'll see where we go from now."
However, the Chepstow fixture proved a setback to young Irish professional Brian Hayes who was found to have used his whip with excessive frequency and suspended for 11 days after his ride aboard Super Collider, which finished third in the two-mile handicap hurdle. He was also ordered to forfeit his percentage of prize money.
Looking ahead to the weekend action at home, Born To Sea -- a three-parts brother to Sea The Stars which made a winning debut in Listed company last month -- was one of 21 entries revealed for Sunday's Killavullen Stakes at Leopardstown. The Invincible Spirit colt's handler John Oxx also has Akeed Wafi in the seven-furlong juvenile event, while Aidan O'Brien's Tibet, Apollo and Nephrite are three once-raced winners among his eight for the campaign's final Group race.
None of that trio are among Ballydoyle's entries for next month's Breeders' Cup meeting in Churchill Downs. Of the stable's juveniles, the fillies Up and Homecoming Queen feature in the early lists for the various two-year-old races at the Kentucky venue, as do the recent high-profile winners Daddy Longlegs and Crusade, as well as Learn.
So You Think is in the Classic along with Await The Dawn, while the latter is joined by St Nicholas Abbey in the Turf. Zoffany has an entry in the Mile, Misty For Me is in the mares' race, and last week's Navan handicap winner Harrison's Cave is the stable's option in the Marathon.
At Yarmouth yesterday, Frankel's half-brother Noble Mission had to settle for the runner-up spot behind Swedish Sailor in the juvenile one-mile maiden.
Connections had warned not to expect too much, and the Henry Cecil-trained colt ran on well in the final two furlongs without ever threatening the five-length winner. While all the attention surrounded Noble Mission, nothing should be taken away Frankie Dettori's mount, with Coral making the Godolphin-owned juvenile 33/1 for Epsom glory.
His trainer Mahmood Al Zarooni said: "He's a nice horse and he hasn't surprised me. I thought he would be able to win."
Meanwhile, the JNWine.com Champion Chase on Saturday week received another boost when Neil Mulholland said Midnight Chase would bypass this weekend's Charlie Hall Chase in favour of the Down Royal Grade One.
Top-class chasers such as Sizing Europe, Rubi Light, Bostons Angel and Quito De La Roque are all intended runners on November 5, so the participation of the Gold Cup fifth would add further weight to proceedings.