Dorans Pride looks best
The inaugural three-day Gowran festival of racing gets under way this afternoon, with the reappearance of the old rivals Dorans Pride and Danoli for the £30,000 Kilkenny Beer Champion Chase sure to draw a big crowd.
Since the pair's four opponents include the Arkle runner-up Hill Society, the Power Gold Cup winner Delphi Lodge, the progressive novice Moscow Express and the hardy annual Merry Gale, this quality event can hardly be described as a match, but Danoli especially is sure to capture the public imagination.
Tom Foley's remarkable crowd pleaser has not raced since the 1997 Cheltenham Gold Cup and has clocked up enough injuries to make even the toughest wince, but Foley reports him ready to return to the fray.
"We're quite happy with him but he has a goodish bit to go and he will badly need the run," the Co Carlow trainer said yesterday. That is a tribute to the attitude of Danoli, who fractured a leg in 1995, had another operation to remove the pins from that same leg and has also had tendon problems. In the circumstances, it's very hard to see him win today but just to see him will be enough for many.
"He deserves a lot of credit for coming back after all the injuries he has had because he still comes back mad for work. He means the world to us and I would love to see him run a real good race if only for his sake," Foley added.
Dorans Pride, third in the last two Gold Cups, has also known bad times, having nearly died with a colic. He started off last season with a win in the Kerry National but may not be quite as forward for his seasonal bow this time.
"I hope he is fit enough to win but there are more important races later on. We will know more tomorrow and this is a good race, but if it were a handicap he'd be giving them weight," Michael Hourigan reported yesterday.
Moscow Express is just a novice, albeit a very good one, and is thrown in at the deep end here, while Hill Society may be better on this ground over the minimum trip. Delphi Lodge has no chance at the weights and Merry Gale doesn't look as good as he was. A reasonably forward Dorans Pride can score under Richard Dunwoody.
The former champion jockey will be on the Listowel scorer, Star To The North, in the juvenile hurdle and this one looked a fine jumper when taking advantage of the first-flight fall of Have Merci at the Kerry track.
However, preference is for the Fairyhouse winner, Miss Emer, who beat Goldanzig by a very easy length on her jumping debut and should have come on a good deal for that effort.