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Royal Ascot on the Missunited hit list

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Mick Winters is holding firm to retain Missunited's handicap mark

Mick Winters is holding firm to retain Missunited's handicap mark

Barry Cregg / SPORTSFILE

Mick Winters is holding firm to retain Missunited's handicap mark

Mick Winters is holding firm in his determination to preserve Missunited's handicap mark ahead of her bid for back-to-back Galway Hurdle glory, while his original Ballybrit hero Rebel Fitz will run at Cork next month ahead of a tilt at the Powers Gold Cup.

Missunited's campaign is to be tailored around an ambitious assault on Royal Ascot ahead of her return to Galway, with the Group One Gold Cup a potential target after her gallant effort to be third at the same level in France in October.

After plundering the lion's share of the €260,000 spoils in the Guinness-sponsored handicap in Galway for a second time last year, Kanturk, Co Cork-based Winters initially hinted that a stab at the mares' hurdle at next month's Cheltenham Festival might be on the cards for his Vanessa hutch-owned seven-year-old.

However, the depth of female talent that continues to emerge from Willie Mullins' relentless Carlow juggernaut has proved a deterrent, with Punchestown also likely to be swerved if horses like Quevega, Annie Power and Glen's Melody are all in attendance. "Missunited came back on Monday and she's in great form," Winters said of his fantastic homebred.

"I'd say her best run was her last run of the year (in Longchamp) and Royal Ascot is where her owners would like to be. The only problem would be if the ground came up firm. She'd go on it, but might not be as effective. I want to go to Galway. Unless something happens with the Mullins mares for Punchestown, we'll sit tight. Missunited has a 144 mark over hurdles, which is probably nice. She might start off in Limerick (in May)."

Winters first caused pandemonium in the Ballybrit winner's enclosure when Rebel Fitz clung on in a dramatic finish to the week's feature event in 2012. The classy nine-year-old progressed to win five novice chases on the spin up to the autumn, but defeat to Third Intention at Cheltenham in October was enough to prompt him to rule the notoriously bad traveller out of the Festival.

Fairyhouse on April 20 is Rebel Fitz's first major objective, with the Galway Plate also on the agenda after a trip to his local venue on March 27.

"He'll go to Mallow and we'd be hoping then to go for the Powers Gold Cup," Winters confirmed. "If he got placed in it or won it, he'd go up in the weights and if he ran at Punchestown and was in the money again, he'd probably take his chance in the Galway Plate. We'll summer campaign him and he looks fine and strong."

Also bound for Fairyhouse over Easter could be last week's JP McManus-owned Eider Chase victor Wyck Hill. David Bridgwater proposed the Irish Grand National as an alternative option if his 10-year-old fails to make the cut for the original edition at Aintree.

"He's in the Kim Muir at Cheltenham," Bridgwater added, "but I think that's highly unlikely as his main objective is the National. I don't think he'll get into that, so he'll probably be going for the Irish National."

Paul Carberry's 2012 Welsh National-winning partner Monbeg Dude is guaranteed a run in the Liverpool showpiece and the exquisite former champion jockey is to be reunited with the nine-year-old at Doncaster tomorrow.

Michael Scudamore's stable star was last seen winning at Cheltenham in December, but missed his intended prep for the National at Haydock recently due to a dirty scope, so the three-and-a-quarter-mile Grimthorpe Chase on Town Moor will be his next stop.

Irish Independent