Weld to concentrate on mares' races with Unaccompanied
Nothing got closer to Hurricane Fly on his last start than Unaccompanied but the dual-Grade One-winning mare will swerve the hot favourite in Sunday’s BHP Irish Champion Hurdle at Leopardstown.
Dermot Weld has decided to concentrate instead for the first time on pitching his top-rated jumper into races confined to mares alone.
Unaccompanied is currently a 6 to 1 second favourite behind Quevega for the David Nicholson Mares’ Hurdle at Cheltenham but it’s not just that festival target that interests the Curragh trainer.
“I don’t think she will run this weekend, and the way we’re thinking is to run her in that series of mares races, at Cheltenham, and the new Grade One at Punchestown,” Weld said yesterday.
“We will mix it between that series and the flat because she’s still a very high-class mare on the flat with a rating of 105. So we’re looking more to the spring with her than running her on the current ground conditions,” he added.
Unaccompanied boasts a 50 per cent strike rate in her eight starts over flights to date and those defeats have come behind some of the cream of the current hurdling crop.
Zarkandar beat her in the 2011 Triumph Hurdle and she finished behind Grandouet subsequently that season at Punchestown. She has also twice finished behind Hurricane Fly, including at Christmas when finishing seven lengths behind Willie Mullins’s former Horse of the Year. That was her first jumps start since finishing fourth in last year’s Irish Champion Hurdle.
Willie Mullins issued an upbeat bulletin on his stable star yesterday and said: “Hurricane Fly has won this race on two occasions and we’re looking forward to the race next Sunday. He’s a much more settled horse all round this year and he’ll have a very good chance.”
The make-up of Hurricane Fly’s opposition in Sunday’s €110,000 feature will be clearer after today’s forfeit stage but despite the current weather conditions there are no problems expected for Leopardstown’s big weekend double bill in terms of the going.
The ground on the inner hurdles track that will be used on Sunday was officially “soft, yielding in places” yesterday. The outer-course which will be used for Boylesports Hurdle day on Saturday is “soft, soft to heavy in places”. The chase course is mostly heavy.
A total of 38 acceptors remain in the €100,000 Boylesports Hurdle after yesterday’s forfeit stage with the ante-post favourite Inis Meain on course to make his first start over flights in over half a year.
The progressive Denis Hogan-trained horse was bought by new owner Barry Connell earlier this month after a hugely successful summer campaign on the flat that saw Inis Meain win four times, including two Premier Handicaps.
After yesterday’s forfeit stage, the big race sponsors cut Inis Meain to 4 to 1 for the first big handicap of 2013.
Last year’s Boylesports winner, Citizenship, is being aimed at a title defence by Jessica Harrington while the Willie Mullins trained Rattan is the top-rated of the 38 left in. Another Mullins hope, Saturday’s winner Tennis Cap, has received an 11lb penalty for his weekend win at Naas.
Dermot Weld took the dual-Grade One winner Hisaabaat out of the Boylesports yesterday but has the following Leopardstown meeting, in just under three weeks’ time, on his mind for the talented novice Waaheb. “The Deloitte over two miles and two is in our present thoughts for Waaheb. But he is a good actioned horse so we’ll see,” he said.
Waaheb followed up a winning debut over hurdles with a second to Jezki at Leopardstown over Christmas.
There are no problems anticipated for Gowran Park on Thursday despite the going there being heavy. That presents no concerns to trainer Paul Nolan who is aiming last week’s Punchestown winner Panther Claw at the €80,000 Goffs Thyestes Chase.
“Panther Claw is a dour stayer and looking at the way the forecast is, the ground is going to be very testing,” said Nolan yesterday.
“He looks like a horse who wants four miles, but this race just might come a bit too soon for him. But in a big race like this, there are times when you take a chance.”