Battleoverdoyen only ‘50-50’ to take chance at Cheltenham

Giant novice remains a general 10-1 shot in the betting for the RSA Chase in a fortnight

Ryanair chief executive Michael O'Leary's Grade One-winning novice chaser Battleoverdoyen is only "50-50" to line up at the Cheltenham Festival.

Battleoverdoyen already looked set to lose his unbeaten record over fences before crashing out at the final obstacle in the race won by Faugheen at the Dublin Racing Festival earlier this month.

Despite that he is still a general 10-1 shot in betting for the RSA Chase in a fortnight.

However, Gigginstown Stud spokesman Eddie O’Leary suggested on Tuesday the giant novice could be kept in reserve for the Aintree festival in April instead.


“He’s 50-50 (for Cheltenham). He was more sore after the ground (at Leopardstown) and he got a bit jarred. He’s good again now and Gordon (Elliott) is happy with him. He might wait for Aintree but that’s Gordon’s call,” he said.

Battleoverdoyen started favourite for last year’s Ballymore Novice Hurdle at Cheltenham but flopped and was pulled up.

He was successful in his first three starts over fences this season including when beating his stable companion Champagne Classic in a Grade One at Leopardstown over Christmas.

O’Leary confirmed that Gigginstown’s star mare Apple’s Jade will target the Paddy Power Stayers Hurdle at Cheltenham and that her fifth festival start could be the final run of her stellar career.

Apple’s Jade was pulled up on her last start behind old rival Benie Des Dieux at Gowran but prior to that had put off talk of retirement by landing an 11th Grade One at Leopardstown over Christmas.

She also holds entries in both the Champion Hurdle and the Mares Hurdle at Cheltenham but a first tilt at the Stayers is her preferred option.

“She’ll go there, she’ll wear blinkers and hopefully the big day will light her up. She’s not working this year as she was last year. We were fully expecting to retire her at Leopardstown Christmas and she won it. We’re going more in hope than anticipation but she’s entitled to a shot,” O’Leary said.

Apple’s Jade failed to fire when starting favourite for the Champion Hurdle last year and could finish only third as a 1-2 favourite to Benie Des Dieux in the 2018 Close Bros Mares Hurdle.

However O’Leary argued: “It’s not as if she doesn’t handle Cheltenham. She won the Mares (2017) and was second in a Triumph (2016.) But this will probably be her swansong.”

The weights for the handicaps at Cheltenham will be released on Wednesday and O’Leary said he would “bite my lip” rather than comment on what rating differences could be in the offing for Irish horses compared to their domestic mark.

Festival weights

In January the Gigginstown team were publicly unhappy with the British handicapper over rating Dallas Des Pictons 12lbs higher than his Irish mark for a race at Cheltenham’s Trials fixture.

At the time O’Leary ruled the horse out of running and commented: “If this is welcome to Cheltenham we know what’s going to happen when the festival weights come out if that’s the case.”

In other news Saturday’s Grade Three feature at Navan is the Flyingbolt Novice Chase which attracted nine potential runners at Tuesday’s forfeit stage.

They include Glamorgan Duke, the narrow 33-1 winner of a valuable handicap at the Dublin Racing Festival, as well as last Saturday’s easy Fairyhouse winner Sizing Pottsie.

Anibale Fly, placed in the Cheltenham Gold Cup for the last two years, doesn’t hold a festival entry this time but could carry top weight in Sunday’s €50,000 TRI Handicap Chase at Leopardstown.

The Tony Martin-trained star has failed to fire in three starts this term, finishing last in all of them. He is a general 20-1 shot for the Aintree National, a race he has been placed fourth and fifth in for the last two years.

Brian O'Connor

Brian O'Connor

Brian O'Connor is the racing correspondent of The Irish Times. He also writes the Tipping Point column