Nacarat lined up for Punchestown raid
Last week's facile Aintree Totesport Bowl winner Nacarat is likely to bid for further big-race glory at the Punchestown Festival next month.
Former Cheltenham Gold Cup winners Kauto Star and Imperial Commander are two star names already pencilled in for the Guinness-sponsored equivalent on May 4, and trainer Tom George yesterday declared that his front-running grey is also an intended runner in the Grade One.
Entries for the race, which has gone for export three times in the past four years, will be revealed this afternoon. "He has come out of (Aintree) unbelievably well," George said of Nacarat. "We are considering the Guinness Gold Cup. It's a Grade One race with prize money to match, and it could be that he is one step better going right-handed on better ground.
"We would not run him on soft, but if it were good or good to soft and if he is in good form, we would have to think very seriously about going over there.
"There is no point in waiting until next December to find that we have heavy ground when this could be a chance on good ground."
Paul Nicholls confirmed yesterday that Kauto Star, third to Long Run in last month's Cheltenham Gold Cup, will travel to Punchestown. "He will definitely go," Nicholls revealed. "I think the race will suit him and he seems well in himself at present."
Noble Prince, Paul Nolan's Jewson Novice Chase hero at Cheltenham, is another that could turn out at Punchestown, though the Powers Gold Cup at Fairyhouse on Easter Sunday is an alternative. The latter Grade One is over Noble Prince's preferred two-and-a-half miles, with the corresponding events at Punchestown, the Ryanair and Growise Champion Chases, run over two and three miles.
"It will be ground dependent as to where we go with him," Nolan said of his seven-year-old, whose Jewson win was franked by runner-up Wishfull Thinking at Aintree. "He will be given all options and will go wherever the ground is good and safe."
Another Cheltenham hero Sizing Europe is reported to be in "great form" by Waterford trainer Henry de Bromhead for his tilt at the Boylesports.com Champion Chase on the opening day of the Festival.
What A Charm, successful in the Fred Winter Hurdle at Prestbury Park, is bound for Fairyhouse, according to his handler Arthur Moore, while John 'Shark' Hanlon expects Luska Lad to fulfil engagements at both Fairyhouse and Punchestown.
First, though, Luska Lad faces a number of fellow jumpers over a mile and six furlongs on the Flat at Tipperary tonight.
Meanwhile, Patrick Mullins, who is four ahead of Nina Carberry in his bid to land a fourth consecutive amateur riders' title, is expected to return to action in time for Punchestown.
The 21-year-old rode Allure Of Allusion to finish third in the bumper at Aintree on Saturday, despite X-rays subsequently revealing that he had suffered a broken collarbone when falling from Dooneys Gate at Becher's Brook in the Grand National.
Mark Walsh, unseated from Quolibet in the National, is likely to be sidelined for six weeks with a fractured left wrist.