Nolan rules Joncol out of assault on Hennessy
PAUL Nolan, who had suggested earlier in the day that Joncol was 90pc certain to run in Saturday's Hennessy Gold Cup, last night ruled the eight-year-old out of the race.
With the ground on the good side at Newbury, there had been some doubt as to whether the mud-loving winner of the Irish equivalent in 2010 would take his chance at Newbury, but Nolan has now brought the speculation about the 16/1 shot to an end.
"We were all set to run and Joncol was due to travel over by ferry on Thursday night," the Wexford handler explained, "but having spoken to a few people who had looked at the track we got reports that the ground is quicker than we would like for Joncol.
"He is a big horse suited by plenty of ease and the ground would appear to be going the other way. Consequently, we have decided against running him. His next race will probably be the John Durkan Memorial Chase at Punchestown on December 11."
However, the lack of rain at the Berkshire track is of no concern to Noel Meade, whose Muirhead will bid to leave behind a below-par turn at Ascot on his latest start in the prestigious handicap.
"He seems very well," Meade said of the Munster National victor.
"As long as the ground is no worse than good to soft, he should be okay."
Meade had a less positive bulletin on Realt Dubh, which has yet to run this season.
"We just had a little bit of a setback with him about a month ago and I slowed him down completely," he revealed of the three-time Grade One-winning novice. "I had hoped to run him in the John Durkan, but we had to scrap that idea, so it will be after Christmas now."
After his encouraging reappearance third over hurdles at Fairyhouse last week, Organisedconfusion, a stunning winner of the Irish Grand National at Easter, catches the eye for next month's showpiece handicap chase at Cheltenham.
In all, six Irish-trained horses feature on an initial 41-strong entry that was revealed yesterday for the December 10 Grade Three, with Willie Mullins responsible for 50pc of the sextet.
Quel Esprit, an easy victor at Naas recently, is one of the champion trainer's three, along with Quiscover Fontaine and Apt Approach.
The latter runs at Thurles today, while Quiscover Fontaine is a possible runner in the Troytown Chase at Navan on Sunday. Dessie Hughes' Roberto Goldback and Tom Taaffe's former Galway Plate hero Finger Onthe Pulse complete the Irish contingent.
However, it is the prospect of a return to fences in the December Gold Cup for the Arthur Moore-trained Orgnisedconfusion that offers genuine intrigue. The progressive six-year-old was third in a valuable handicap chase at Leopardstown in January, before teeing himself up for the Irish National with a win in a two-miler at Clonmel.
A versatile sort, he may not be done improving yet, so an early show of 16/1 for the Cheltenham contest isn't unappealing.
Great Endeavour, the Paddy Power Gold Cup winner which tackles the Hennessy this weekend, is the ante-post favourite at 6/1.
Quiscover Fontaine has also been given the option of taking in the Welsh National on December 27, with Prince De Beauchene, On His Own and Some Target other Mullins-trained contenders for the Chepstow marathon.
Notre Pere, the first Irish-based horse to win the race for Jim Dreaper in 2008, has been put in again by his current handler Barry Potts, while Dreaper has entered Telenor.
There are 16 potential raiders among an overall entry of 79. Gordon Elliott's Beautiful Sound, currently 10/1 second favourite behind last year's winner Synchronised (6/1), is one of three that the Co Meath handler has entered, Cheltenham Festival winner Chicago Grey and Tharawaat being the other two.
At Newbury this afternoon, Grands Crus is the star attraction in the novice chase.
Second only to the sensational Big Buck's -- which is pencilled in for Saturday's Long Distance Hurdle on Saturday -- as a staying hurdler, David Pipe's athletic grey ran out an emphatic winner on his fencing debut at Cheltenham two weeks ago.