Morris grounds for concern over stars' return at Gowran
Despite heavy rainfall hitting swathes of the country in recent days, the possibility of firm ground conditions could thwart Mouse Morris' plans to re-introduce stable stars First Lieutenant and China Rock in Gowran Park's PWC Champion Chase on Saturday.
The official going at the Co Kilkenny venue is currently described as good, good to firm in places, with sunshine and showers forecast for the region this week.
While both China Rock, successful in Saturday's Grade Two under Ruby Walsh in 2010, and First Lieutenant are considered to be most effective on decent jumping ground, Morris yesterday warned that he would not be willing to risk either horse on such a fast surface.
"We'd want rain for them," said the Fethard handler, who also stated that Monday's progressive Roscommon scorer Baily Green might now be saved for the Aintree Grand National meeting in the spring.
"It doesn't look like it (the track at Gowran) will get much (rain) and if it doesn't, they won't run. If the ground did come up right, they might both take their chance as they are ready to rock and roll."
Having returned from 10 months off in January, China Rock concluded last term with his first Grade One victory when ploughing through the mud at Punchestown to record a shock 20/1 triumph in thetote.com Gold Cup.
A dual Grade One-winning hurdler, the Gigginstown Stud-owned First Lieutenant finished a fine second to Bobs Worth in the RSA Chase at Cheltenham and is as low as 16/1 for Gold Cup glory next March.
Henry de Bromhead has also earmarked Saturday's €37,500 two-and-a-half-miler for the comeback of last year's winner Sizing Europe.
Other potential starters include Tom Mullins' Galway Plate hero Bob Lingo, Blackstairmountain (Willie Mullins), Realt Dubh (Noel Meade), Forpadydeplasterer (Tom Cooper) and Paul Nolan's smart pair of Noble Prince and Joncol.
With the ground as it is, Nolan has suggested that Joncol, off the track with a leg injury since disappointing in the Lexus Chase last Christmas, is an unlikely starter, while Noble Prince might be kept for the Haldon Gold Cup at Exeter on Tuesday, November 6.
Blackstairmountain has the alternative option of the Grade Two hurdle on Tipperary's 'Super Sunday' fixture 24 hours later, in which Mullins has also entered Thousand Stars, last seen securing a second successive victory in the French Champion Hurdle in June.
Mick Winters' improving Galway Hurdle winner Rebel Fitz is one of nine others engaged in the two-miler.
Jim Bolger, meanwhile, has confirmed that next year's 2,000 Guineas favourite Dawn Approach will bid to stretch his unbeaten sequence to six in the Dewhurst on Saturday week when he will be joined by Leitir Mor.
The Coolcullen trainer's recent impressive Gowran Park maiden winner Trading Leather will tackle a Group Three on the same Newmarket card.
Bolger was unable to say if Dawn Approach, which was purchased by Sheikh Mohammed before his National Stakes victory at the Curragh last month, would stay in training with him next term but he did reveal an unorthodox plan for Parish Hall, last year's Dewhurst winner.
"Parish Hall is almost 100pc now and we're hoping to have him for the Dubai World Cup (on March 30)," he reported of a horse that has failed to make the track as a three-year-old.