Dual festival winner Alderwood a doubt

Benbulben to join World Hurdle field as Hughes eyes Gold with Lyreen Legend

Alderwood (right) is unlikely to run at the Cheltenham Festival.

Alderwood (right) is unlikely to run at the Cheltenham Festival.

 

Dual Cheltenham Festival winner Alderwood is unlikely to run at this year’s meeting, according to trainer Tom Mullins.

The 10-year-old won the County Hurdle in 2012 before following up in the Grand Annual Chase at the meeting last year and is as short as 8-1 for the Queen Mother Champion Chase this time around.

However, he has not been seen since making his seasonal reappearance in October and while Mullins had been hoping for another Cheltenham run, he admits it is “60-40 against” the gelding running.

“It’s looking unlikely that he’ll be there,” said Mullins. “He got a bruise on a hoof which put him back a few days.

“It doesn’t look good. I’d said we needed everything to go right every single day and I put the mockers on myself.

“I’d say it’s 60-40 against him running, at best, and we’ll know more in a few days. As for Aintree and Punchestown, I’m just not sure. We’ll have to wait and see if it settles down.”

In other Festival news, owner Barry Connell has confirmed Mount Benbulben will be supplemented for the Ladbrokes World Hurdle.

Although the Gordon Elliott-trained nine-year-old is a Grade One winner over fences, jumping problems have prevented him from realising his full potential.

He made a number of mistakes on his way to finishing fourth in the King George VI Chase at Kempton on December 26th and was far from foot perfect when runner-up behind On His Own in last weekend’s Bobbyjo Chase at Fairyhouse.


‘Into a place’
While he has a clear preference for going right-handed, Connell is hoping that will be less of a problem over the smaller obstacles and plans to add him to the field at a cost of £13,750.

“There is nothing much for him between the Fairyhouse race and the Punchestown Festival, so we thought we’d give the World Hurdle a go,” said Connell. “Big Buck’s is there and if Annie Power runs they are the big two, but we’d like to think Mount Benbulben could run into a place.”

Trainer Dessie Hughes is likely to run Lyreen Legend in the Betfred Cheltenham Gold Cup rather than in the Ryanair Chase.

Second to Lord Windermere in the RSA Chase last year, he was expected to make up in to a viable Gold Cup contender this season. However, a minor problem delayed his comeback until the Lexus in December, when a respectable fifth, after which he was slightly disappointing in the Hennessy at Leopardstown.

It had been mooted that the gelding could drop in trip for the Ryanair, but Hughes is leaning in the opposite direction.

“I think we’re going to go for the Gold Cup,” he said. “It looked like he got every yard of the trip in the RSA last year. Hopefully better ground will help him.”

Cheltenham’s clerk of the course Simon Claisse is on guard against further rain with the track shaping up nicely ahead of the Festival in just under two weeks.

“If I was assessing it today, I’d say it was officially soft on both courses, while the cross country is soft, heavy in places,” said Claisse.

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