Leopardstown last major trial for festival hopes

Sat, Feb 2, 2013, 00:00

RACING:Next Saturday’s €160,000 Hennessy Gold Cup at Leopardstown will be the last major trial for Ireland’s Cheltenham Gold Cup hopes and could primarily shape up as another clash between this country’s two big hopes, Flemenstar and Sir Des Champs.

With Tidal Bay currently rated only a possible to return to the scene of his memorable Lexus victory at Christmas, the chances of British representation took a hit yesterday.

Tom George is aiming the exciting French import Mail de Bievre at Cheltenham next month but said yesterday he will only consider the Hennessy if the Denman Chase at Newbury on the same day is threatened by weather problems.

“It’s a precautionary entry in case something goes wrong Newbury. There aren’t too many races he can run in at this stage of the season and we are keeping our options open,” the Gloucestershire trainer said.

George’s blue-riband “dark-horse” hasn’t run in 18 months but is rated highly. “He is particularly exciting and has amassed over £300,000 in prize-money during his career in France,” George reported.

“His latest win in April 2010 had a first prize in excess of £95,000 and had he not been injured, would almost certainly have been odds-on for the Grand Steeplechase de Paris.”

Willie Mullins is chasing a remarkable ninth win in the Hennessy and has a team likely to be headed by Sir Des Champs, fourth behind Tidal Bay, First Lieutenant and Flemenstar in the Lexus, but rated a 5 to 1 second favourite in betting for Cheltenham next month.

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