Florida Pearl on course for King George at Kempton
Florida Pearl remains on course for an attempt on becoming the first Irish-trained King George VI Chase winner in 25 years but his stable companion Alexander Banquet will miss out on Leopardstown's Ericsson Chase.
Willie Mullins said yesterday: "Alexander Banquet has had a slight setback and we haven't got enough done with him to have him back for the Ericsson.
"I hope he isn't out for the season and the Hennessy Gold Cup will be his next major target. I don't know if he will be able to have a prep' race before then. It may be doubtful."
That leaves just 10 entries remaining in the Ericsson in six days time, including Florida Pearl, but Mullins confirmed his stable star is on track to be ferried to Kempton over the weekend.
"He will go to Britain by ferry because the weather outlook is good - but he is flying in himself!" reported Mullins who nominated the 1997 and 1999 King George winner See More Business and the French champion First Gold as the main opposition to Florida Pearl.
"If he can get past those two then there won't be too many in front of him," Mullins said. "First Gold has to be good. Ordinary horses just don't win the races he has won in France."
"But Florida Pearl is in great order and schooled well the other day. We want to forget about his first run of the season in the North but we were much happier with him at Punchestown last time," he added.
The Pat Taaffe-trained Captain Christy was the last Irish winner of the Kempton Christmas feature when trouncing Bula in the 1975 King George.
There is unlikely to be an Irish runner in the main supporting steeplechase on Kempton's St Stephen's Day card however.
The Frances Crowley-trained Sackville holds an entry in the Grade 1 Feltham Chase which has attracted the top cross-channel novices Shotgun Willie, Enrique and Bachannal.
However, the Drinmore Chase winner is also in the William Neville & Sons Novice Chase over three miles at Leopardstown next Thursday and Crowley said yesterday: "No final decision has been taken yet but I imagine he would probably stay in Ireland."
The Grade 3 Greenmount Park Novice Chase on Tuesday had also been on Crowley's mind for her star novice but both that race and the other other chase scheduled for the Cork card, the Macroom Handicap, have been cancelled.
A morning inspection yesterday found the chase track to be unraceable and two races will now be divided to make a seven race fixture on St Stephen's Day. The ground on the hurdles course is forecast to be "soft".
The Noel Meade-trained Sausalito Bay remains among the entries for Kempton's Christmas Hurdle but one star name who will not be appearing this Christmas is Limestone Lad whose name is not among the 12 left in the Woodies DIY Hurdle next Thursday.