Gowran and Leopardstown optimistic as weather looks like easing its grip
“We’ve been a lot happier with him this season compared with last season,” said Mullins.
Collier Bay in 1996 was the last British trained winner of the Irish Champion Hurdle and the French-based Foreman was the last overseas horse to score. Foreman’s owner JP McManus has already confirmed the former Cheltenham champion Binocular will attempt to bridge both gaps on Sunday.
The picture of the race will become clearer tomorrow at the vital five-day forfeit stage. But Dermot Weld has the option of leaving in Unaccompanied and Hisaabaat who is top weight in the Boylesports.
Willie Mullins has three other entries besides Hurricane Fly, including Hatton’s Grace victor Zaidpour. However, that World Hurdle hope could figure instead in Gowran’s Grade Two John Mulhern Galmoy Hurdle on Thursday, a race that might also attract another World Hurdle contender in Bog Warrior.
The next scheduled meeting in Ireland is this Wednesday at Limerick. But the prospects of racing going ahead there were described as no more than “50-50” by course manager Russell Ferris.
“At the moment we are very heavy. We’ve had a lot of rain and it wouldn’t take more than four or five mils more to put us in trouble,” he said. “The forecast is favourable but at this time of year you can’t be sure.”
Red-hot Russell Contender eyes crown
Davy Russell cemented his position as odds-on favourite to retain his champion jockey title in Ireland after Saturday’s four-timer at Naas.
The rider broke his duck in the championship last season after five consecutive runner-up placings and is on the 78-winner mark for the current campaign. Stan James cut Russell to 4 to 7 and Ruby Walsh is now a 5 to 4 shot to regain the championship. Walsh is on 70 winners, 20 clear of another former champion, Paul Townend.
The 2011 Grand National runner-up Oscar Time will take in Fairyhouse’s Bobbyjo Chase en route to a return to Aintree in April. The Martin Lynch-trained star was placed in the Bobbyjo before finishing runner-up to Ballabriggs in Liverpool two years ago and his connections plan on taking the same path.
“We are planning to go to the Bobbyjo Chase. That race has become the established Irish trial for the Grand National,” said Oscar Time’s owner Robert Waley-Cohen yesterday. “It’s perfect timing, the weights are out and people feel whatever the weights are they have to live with them. If they run well, or badly, it doesn’t have any impact so that’s where we go.”