New date fixed for Gold Cup meeting

LEOPARDSTOWN’S Hennessy Gold Cup meeting has been rescheduled for next Saturday after it was called off due to waterlogging. A number of other meetings have been switched to facilitate the high-profile fixture, which features four Grade One events.

Racecourse 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 annual badge members that they will be admitted free of charge to Leopardstown on Saturday.”

Speaking earlier about the abandonment, Burke said: “We had another ten millimetres of rain overnight and, in total, we have had 17 millimetres since 3pm on Saturday, which is more than we could cope with.”

The four Grade One races will revert to their original entries and fresh forfeits must be made by noon on Tuesday.

Gowran Park, who were due to stage a meeting next Saturday, have put it back a week to February 19, replacing a Fairyhouse fixture that will now be staged on Wednesday, February 23.

That date had originally been earmarked for Navan, who will now race two days later, on Friday, February 25.

The Naas meeting abandoned on Saturday because of waterlogging will not be rescheduled in the immediate future. The track was hit by more than 50mm of rain in two days and the priority now is to stage the two meetings on Sunday, February 20 and Sunday, March 6.

Pride heading For Ascot

Pride Of Dulcote looks set to miss the rescheduled Hennessy Gold Cup at Leopardstown next Saturday in favour of a run at Ascot the following weekend. Paul Nicholls’ rising star headed the market for the Grade One contest, which was called off due to waterlogging, after his defeat of Punchestowns at Newbury in December.

The trainer tweeted: “Pride Of Dulcote likely to go for Grade One Betfair Chase at Ascot on February 19.”

However, Paul Nolan has reaffirmed his aim to run last year’s winner Joncol at Leopardstown. “We would have preferred it if it had gone ahead, and probably everybody is in the same boat,” said the County 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. Saturday is tight enough for Cheltenham. As far as we are concerned, the Hennessy is our Cheltenham for Joncol. That’s our aim for the season with him. Hopefully we can keep him in one piece until Saturday and we’ll get him there healthy.”

Bino’s scappy show

Tony McCoy was underwhelmed, if hardly in despair, about Binocular despite the Champion Hurdle hero finishing off his Cheltenham preparations on a winning note at Sandown. The seven-year-old had looked in need of a run when beaten by Peddlers Cross at Newbury, but claimed the Christmas Hurdle with ease and was not expected to be troubled by three rivals rated leagues below him in the totesport 0800 221 221 Contenders Hurdle.

But the 1-10 favourite jumped scrappily on the back straight and McCoy was just starting to get serious when front-running stablemate Ruthenoise stumbled through the last and allowed Binocular to cruise clear under an instantly relaxed rider.

McCoy said: “It wasn’t impressive but, for whatever reason, it was a similar performance to last year. I don’t think he jumped as well as he can, but with just three other horses you are being careful in case one falls or something like that.

“He was more impressive at Kempton, but you can’t go on what he did there in a race like this. He seems in good form, he’s progressing and hopefully we will get him there [Cheltenham] the same as last year.”

Trainer Nicky Henderson had been at Ffos Las to see Oscar Whisky win the Welsh Champion Hurdle. He told BBC Radio Five Live: “These trials are very difficult with four runners. He [Binocular] is quite a lot better than the others and they were not going the pace he likes to go at. They didn’t go fast enough for him.

“This is not March. We’ve got six weeks to Cheltenham. He wasn’t overly impressive when he won this race last year and we have six weeks, so I hope we know where we are. I was talking to AP just then, as I had only seen the film of the end of it and he said he won easily enough at the end, but, for his hurdling, you have to go faster to see him at his best. There’s improvement in the locker, which is why we wanted to get that run into him.”

Oscar Heading for Prestbury

Owner Dai Walters is looking forward to Oscar Whisky taking on the big guns in the Stan James Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham next month. The Nicky Henderson-trained six-year-old made it six wins from seven starts when hacking up in the Welsh Champion Hurdle on Saturday at Ffos Las, a track built and owned by Walters.

“It was brilliant and the horse is fine, no problems at all. I’ve spoken to the yard and he’s all right,” said Walters. “I think he’ll go for the Champion Hurdle now. He can go for the three-mile World Hurdle next year. I’ll leave it to Nicky. He knows more about it than I’ll ever know. It’s good to have a horse like him. That was only his seventh race and we are not going to ruin him. He’ll only have two more runs this season or maybe only one. We’ll see how it goes.”

Oscar Whisky does hold an entry in the Ladbrokes World Hurdle but, with the Champion, his likely target he is a top-priced 14-1 with the leading bookmakers.

David Pipe has trained a winner at every jumps track in Britain after Hunterview landed the feature John Smith’s Scottish County Handicap Hurdle at Musselburgh.

The five-year-old was Pipe’s first runner at the venue and the Nicholashayne handler still has a 100% strike rate after The Tracey Shuffle (6-4 favourite) took the concluding bumper.

Tom Scudamore had Hunterview handy and led before the third-last, the 11-4 favourite galloping on dourly to score by five lengths to complete the full set for Pipe, who only took over the reins from his father Martin in May 2006.

“He jumped extremely well, which kept him in the race early on. He looked flat out. They didn’t hang about and horse and jockey battled all the way to the line,” said the trainer.

“I’ve had a winner at all the jump tracks now. Dad never had a winner at Ffos Las as it wasn’t going when he was training.”

Vosges (7-1) rallied in creditable fashion to land the John Smith’s Scottish Triumph Hurdle for trainer James Ewart and jockey Harry Haynes, coming back strongly to deny The Starboard Bow by a head in a terrific run to the line.

The Nicky Henderson-trained Skint (4-7) left his supporters strapped for cash when turned over in the Scottish Racing Novices’ Hurdle, finishing only third behind the winner Wyse Hill Teabags (14-1). Jim Goldie’s runner beat Moon Indigo by three and a half lengths after Richie McGrath kicked on before three out. The trainer said: “He got badly hampered two out and virtually got stopped to a walk on his hurdling debut.

“His bumper form is working out well and he jumped well today. It wasn’t totally unexpected as he’s a nice horse. Richie is very good at dictating the pace.”

Moon Indigo’s trainer Howard Johnson and jockey Brian Hughes went one better in the Racing UK Handicap Hurdle with Santa’s Son (16-1), who got home by three lengths to record his first win since December 2008 on his return to the yard from Charles Pogson’s stable.

Johnson sweet on Menorah

Richard Johnson believes Menorah has “a great chance” of winning the Stan James Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham next month. The jockey has partnered the six-year-old in all his eight races, winning six and finishing second twice, since Menorah joined the Philip Hobbs team.

“The one I’m looking forward to riding the most at Cheltenham is Menorah. He hasn’t stopped improving since he’s been at Philip’s and to win at Cheltenham last year was fantastic,” said Johnson.

“Hopefully he goes to the Champion Hurdle this year with a great chance. The race looks competitive, but he’s done nothing wrong and he loves Cheltenham. I’d be very hopeful of him running a very big race.”

Menorah is unbeaten in three races at Cheltenham, lifting the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle at last year’s Festival and landing the Greatwood and International Hurdles on his two starts so far this campaign.

He is around a 5-1 shot to give Hobbs and Johnson their second Champion Hurdle triumph after Rooster Booster in 2003.