The rescheduled Hennessy Gold Cup at Leopardstown next Saturday looks certain to be staged without the original favourite Pride Of Dulcote, which will now head to the Betfair Chase at Ascot a week later, according to Paul Nicholls.
Britain's champion trainer, who won the Hennessy as a jockey aboard Playschool in 1988 and saddled Neptune Collonges to take the Grade One prize two seasons ago, reacted to yesterday's postponement due to the waterlogged state of the Dublin track by recalling Pride Of Dulcote to his Somerset base. Indian Daudaie, though, will be declared for the Tote Spring Juvenile Hurdle.
Ascot's Betfair Chase was used by Nicholls to tune up stable companion Kauto Star for an unsuccessful defence of the Cheltenham Gold Cup, which went to the yard's other top-flight performer, Denman, and he obviously prefers not to subject Pride Of Dulcote to a return trip to Leopardstown.
However, two more English raiders -- The Listener, which carried Wexford's Daryl Jacob to Hennessy glory in 2008, and Money Trix -- are reportedly remaining at their temporary Irish lodgings to take in the three-mile event, postponed for the second time in three years after the weekend deluge that also claimed Saturday's Naas card.
Paul Nolan has reaffirmed his aim to run last year's winner Joncol.
"We would have preferred if it had gone ahead and probably everybody is in the same boat," said the Wexford trainer. "Hopefully they will be able to race next week because after that it will probably be too close to Cheltenham for some of the horses. It's not ideal. Real Gold Cup contenders would not want a real slog over three miles before the Festival. As far as we are concerned, the Hennessy is our Cheltenham for Joncol."
Although the Naas meeting has been abandoned, Horse Racing Ireland (HRI) opted to grant Leopardstown next Saturday's slot which was originally awarded to Gowran Park's Red Mills Trials day that in turn has been put back a week to the same afternoon as the Betfair Chase.
Because next weekend is dedicated to another round of the Six Nations and the Ireland-France rugby game takes place at the Aviva Stadium close by, Sunday was never a runner for the Hennessy, which will not be televised either.
This belated staging of the Leopardstown showpiece will clash now with Newbury's Totesport Trophy, for which Willie Mullins can choose between MCR Hurdle principals Final Approach and Call The Police as well as Limerick's late December scorer Sweet My Lord.
A further knock-on effect of yesterday's postponement sees Fairyhouse's original February 19 date, which has been transferred to Gowran Park, put back until the following Wednesday and that afternoon's intended Navan fixture delayed until Friday, February 25.
Leopardstown manager Tom Burke said: "We are very grateful to the other racecourses for their assistance in these changes and would like to inform all Gowran Park, Fairyhouse and Navan members that they will be admitted free of charge next Saturday."