Wednesday 17 January 2018

Morris to bide time before deciding on Rathlin target

Nick Robson

A trip to Aintree rather than Cheltenham looks on the cards for the progressive Rathlin, which has really started to flourish over fences for Mouse Morris this year.

The seven-year-old was a promising novice hurdler for Philip Rothwell last season, finishing sixth in the Supreme Novices' Hurdle, but looked a shadow of himself when Morris sent him over fences earlier in the campaign.

But having now won three on the bounce, his future looks bright again. "He's really got the hang of it now," said Morris. "We've got no great plans for him -- I didn't even enter him for Cheltenham.

"He might go to Liverpool, or there's Fairyhouse (Powers Gold Cup) and there's Punchestown in the mix too. There's no pressure from the owners (Gigginstown House Stud) to run anywhere, but there never is from Eddie and Michael (O'Leary) -- they're very good and leave it up to the trainers."

Meanwhile, Lion Na Bearnai could take up one of his two entries at Cheltenham as he continues to progress following his shock success in the Grade Two Ten Up Novice Chase at Navan.

The Powers Whiskey Irish Grand National is the 10-year-old's main objective, but trainer Tom Gibney has not ruled out of the Festival.

"It was a surprise he won at Navan, but he's a tough competitor and his experience in long-distance handicaps has clearly stood him in good stead," said the Meath trainer.

"Our plan since he finished second in the Porterstown at Fairyhouse last year was the Irish National, and I don't suppose he'd have any problems getting in now after that. I've also stuck him in what was the William Hill (JLT Speciality Handicap Chase) and the Kim Muir, but we'll have to see. If he's bouncing, I'd have to have a look at coming over."

Impressive Fontwell winner Utopian is not certain to line up in the Champion Bumper, according to trainer Nick Gifford. The French import won by 12 lengths on Sunday but Gifford is not getting carried away by the performance.

"I was very impressed with him, but you've got to treat the form with a little bit of caution," he said.

"He's obviously decent and he'll get an entry for Cheltenham, but by no means are we going to run. We'll keep one eye on the weather as he wouldn't want drying ground."

Irish Independent

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