Lad is not a certain runner


Stage Affair has been confirmed a runner in tomorrow's Smurfit Champion Hurdle, but while the drying ground contributed to Dermot Weld's decision to take on Istabraq, it has raised doubts over the participation of Limestone Lad in Thursday's Stayers' Hurdle.

Limestone Lad relishes a dig in the going and Phyllis Bowe, wife of owner-trainer James Bowe, said yesterday: "He's in great form and it would be a great pity if he were to miss the race but there is no point running if the ground is dead against him."

Good ground is now being forecast for the festival opening and it is likely to dry up even further later in the week.

Mrs Bowe added: "My husband and son Michael will walk the course when they get to Cheltenham and then make a decision as to whether or not to run. There are reports of a lot of moisture in the ground, so we are hopeful. Lets hope it stays that way."

Dermot Weld also confirmed Tony McCoy as Stage Affair's rider in tomorrow's big race, but the Michael Smurfit-owned gelding faces a huge task against Istabraq, who "delighted" Charlie Swan in a workout yesterday.

"It was my first time to sit on him since Leopardstown and he felt very good. He jumped a couple of hurdles with Theatreworld and Darapour and then the three of them had a little blow out on the flat," Swan reported.

"I was delighted with Istabraq and all seems to be going well with him so far," he added.

Willie Mullins had less positive news of the Weatherbys Champion Bumper prospect, Adamant Approach, who pulled a shoulder muscle on Friday morning.

"It doesn't look good. He's having physio three times a day. I'm treating him as a non-runner at the minute and basically we're hoping for a miracle," Mullins said.