Sole Witness ticks all the boxes in Thyestes


RACING:Colin McBratney feels Sole Witness has plenty in his favour when he goes for today’s Goffs Thyestes Handicap Chase at Gowran Park.

The Co Down trainer has had this race in mind for the nine-year-old since he landed a two-and-a-half-mile handicap chase at Navan in mid-December.

“He won nicely in Navan. The plan was to go here after then and we’re very happy with him,” said McBratney of Sole Witness. “He’ll love the ground and the distance shouldn’t be a problem.

“The weights have gone up a bit which is a bit of an inconvenience, but Ben Dalton takes 5lb off him. He knows him well which will help things.”

Willie Mullins expects Bishopsfurze to revel in the heavy conditions, but is less confident after his runner was left to give weight all round after the weights went up 9lb at the final declaration stage.

Tough task

“He’ll love the ground but he’s got a lot of weight. It’s going to be a tough task with that amount of weight,” said the Co Carlow trainer.

Colm Murphy admits The Westener Boy faces a tough task in his first handicap. The Westener Boy was pulled up at Leopardstown last time but had opened his account over the bigger obstacles by 25 lengths on his previous start.

“Touch wood, hopefully he runs well. We are probably throwing him in at the deep end first time in a handicap. We are well aware of that,” said the Co Wexford trainer. “He seems all right. We were a bit worried initially after he was pulled up at Leopardstown.”

Tarquinius has plenty on his plate, according to his trainer Gordon Elliott “It’s a big step up in class and he’s gone up a lot in the weights, but if he could sneak into a place I’d be delighted,” said the Co Meath handler.

Bog Warrior has an opportunity to pick up another decent prize over the small obstacles when he faces just four rivals in the John Mulhern Galmoy Hurdle. The Tony Martin-trained nine-year-old has won both his races since being switched to hurdles after falling in the Ladbrokes Chase at Down Royal in November.

Smart performer

He was a Grade One novice chase winner last winter, and showed he is also a smart performer over timber when beating the high-class Solwhit at Punchestown on his latest start. Connections will assess his performance in this Grade Two event before deciding which direction to go for the rest of the season.

Bog Warrior holds entries in the Hennessy Gold Cup at Leopardstown next month and in the Ryanair Chase, the Betfred Cheltenham Gold Cup and the Ladbrokes World Hurdle in March. “He runs tomorrow and we will see where we go after that,” said Eddie O’Leary, racing manager to owners Gigginstown House Stud. “This is a good opportunity.”

Zaidpour won this race 12 months ago and his trainer Willie Mullins believes he has to run at least to that level if he is to repeat the feat.

“He’s a course and distance winner. If he could reproduce the form that he did to win this race last year it would be a big help. However, Bog Warrior looks a formidable opponent,” said Mullins.

Big Zeb, winner of the Queen Mother Champion Chase at Cheltenham in 2010, has been retired.

Trainer Colm Murphy took the decision to call time on the 12-year-old’s highly successful racing career due to problems with the horse’s joints.

“It’s a pity, but unfortunately he’s had a few niggly problems,” said the Co Wexford handler yesterday.

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