'Riches' odds-on for Gold as Vautour and Don Poli defect
The prospect of Vautour and Don Poli heading to Cheltenham in March without another run increased yesterday when Willie Mullins scratched both leading Gold Cup contenders from Saturday’s Irish equivalent.
As a result, Road To Riches was slashed to as low as 8/11 favourite to secure Noel Meade a first win in Leopardstown’s €150,000 feature. Despite Don Poli’s absence, Road To Riches is one of five that Gigginstown Stud has to choose from, meaning that Michael O’Leary’s omnipotent firm is responsible for half of the five-day entries.
Sir Des Champs – which in 2013 secured the first of Gigginstown’s two successes in the race and the most recent of Mullins’s nine triumphs – is in again, as are Valseur Lido, Meade’s Wounded Warrior and Mouse Morris’s First Lieutenant.
Graham Wylie’s On His Own is another that could vie to plunder a 10th win for Mullins, while John Kiely’s Carlingford Lough, such a brave partner in victory for AP McCoy on a memorable afternoon 12 months ago, is one of two JP McManus entries, the other being Enda Bolger’s Gilgamboa. Completing the list is Ted Walsh’s Barry Connell-owned 2015 runner-up Foxrock, the general second favourite at 7/1. Mullins has been reluctant to commit to plans for the Gold Cup market leader Vautour or Don Poli, but he has hinted that both could head straight for the March 18 showpiece.
While the Red Mills and Aon Chases on Saturday week are still there for consideration, Mullins is eager to prioritise the Gold Cup for his A Team this year in a bid to finally claim the sport’s Holy Grail, in which he has had the runner-up on five occasions.
Given that his deposed Gold Cup market leader Djakadam suffered a laceration that required stitching after his Cheltenham spill on Saturday, and that he put a few sub-par turns at Doncaster down to his horses having picked up a chill on the boat over, it would be no surprise if he elected to keep Vautour and Don Poli’s powder dry.
Mullins and Gigginstown dominate the Flogas Novices’ Chase entries, with the perennial champion responsible for eight of the 12 entries, while six of those are owned by O’Leary, who also has Morris’s Rule The World.
Not among the dozen is the RSA favourite No More Heroes, which Gordon Elliott has confirmed will head straight to Cheltenham.
McKinley, Measureofmydreams, Tell Us More, Outlander, Net D’Ecosse and Roi Des Francs are shared by Mullins and Gigginstown, while Black Hercules and Pont Alexandre complete Mullins’ array of possibilities for a Grade One formerly known as the Dr PJ Moriarty. Meade could call on Monksland, and his Co Meath neighbour and former deputy Andrew Lynch will tilt at windmills in the €85,000 contest with his Christmas course winner, Zabana.
Recent Grade One winners Yorkhill and Bellshill are among five Mullins contenders for the Deloitte Novices’ Hurdle. There are nine entries in total for the two-and-a-quarter-mile event, and those two share the market lead at 2/1 with Gordon Elliott’s Tombstone.
Aidan O’Brien trains the odds-on market leader Ivanovich Gorbatov in the first of the high-class card’s four Grade Ones, the Gain Spring Juvenile Hurdle, in which Mullins has Allblak Des Places, Footpad and Let’s Dance.
Gavin Cromwell’s Jer’s Girl, beaten for a first time over flights when chinned by Apple Jade over Christmas, is an intended starter. “Everything is good with her and this has been the plan,” Cromwell said of his stable star’s entry. “I’d love to see some rain. It was gutting to lose last time, but there you go.”
The ground at the Foxrock venue is being given as soft, soft to heavy in places, with a largely dry forecast.