Magnier's Christmas clash off


The Gold Cup contenders Nick Dundee and Native Upmanship, which race in the colours of John Magnier's wife, Sue, may not after all clash in Leopardstown's Ericsson Chase.

Both were nominated for the Christmas feature on December 28th after winning at the weekend, but a Magnier spokesman has been quoted as saying: "I would be very surprised if they wanted them to run in the same race before Cheltenham."

Native Upmanship's trainer, Arthur Moore, is waiting to speak to the owner, as is Edward O'Grady, who performed a remarkable feat of training by getting Nick Dundee successfully back to the racecourse. But it looks as if one of the trainers is going to have to come up with an alternative plan.

Nick Dundee and Native Upmanship are both 14 to 1 with Paddy Power for the Gold Cup.

"I'd like to think the Ericsson will be (Nick Dundee's) next race, but it does have to be discussed," O'Grady said yesterday. "The horse is in great form, but there are not a lot of options or alternatives for him."

On racing's political front, the Irish Horseracing Authority (IHA) chief executive, Martin Moore, has welcomed the Aga Khan's Moyglare Stud speed in which the top owner called for improved prizemoney for the lower and middle sectors of the sport.

"His sentiments are something we in the IHA have recognised in our objectives for the last number of years," said Moore.

"We have looked for a balance to our overall use of funding. We've recognised that minimum values have had to be increased and we've done our best to put such schemes in place. We've moved a long way in the last few years, such as now having a £7,000 minimum value for a maiden hurdle on a Grade Three track.

"But we do have to have a balance," Moore continued, "and we need reasonable money levels to attract the top horses here. As things stand, prizemoney for the Guineas and Oaks here are way out of line with the prizemoney levels in Britain."

Moore was responding to the Aga Khan's questioning of "a global competition as to which country can disburse the highest amounts of money to its premium classics."

Today's racing is at Fairyhouse, where Native Upmanship's rider, Conor O'Dwyer, can continue his sparkling recent run of form.

The Gold Cup winning rider, widely recognised as one of the country's foremost steeplechase jockeys, has secured the mount on the high-class Take Five in the Mulhuddart Beginners Chase, and although the horse hasn't appeared since runnerup to Rubahunish at the Cheltenham festival, Take Five looks the one to keep an eye on here.

O'Dwyer also has chances on Native Of Kerry in the novice handicap hurdle, and On Your Marks in the opener, although the latter may be vulnerable to a very smart newcomer, such as the Ruby Walsh-ridden Fruit Defendu.

The nap, however, goes to the front-running Alcapone in the other Beginners Chase. David Casey, another top chase jockey, rides the Mouse Morris horse who ran a fine second last time to Well Ridden.

That horse is considered by many to be a Cheltenham prospect, and it was only by a neck that Alcapone failed to him at Navan after having made a slight mistake at the last.