It was a case of so near but so far for First Lieutenant in last year’s Lexus Chase but the Grade One winning star is set for another crack at next week’s €150,000 Leopardstown highlight.
Mouse Morris's agonised reaction to First Lieutenant being denied in the final strides by Tidal Bay was one of the images of last season but the Co Tipperary-based trainer is optimistic of a happier outcome this time in a race for which Paddy Power rate his horse a 5/1 third favourite.
"It's the bad days that make the good days even better!" he joked yesterday, while expressing confidence that First Lieutenant can put a poor run in last month's JNwine Champion Chase at Down Royal well behind him against both Bob's Worth and Sir Des Champs next Saturday.
“The North was an absolute disaster, and I blame myself for it,” Morris added.
“But everything has gone well since and he seems in great fettle now. I’m not worried about ground. Grade One horses can go on anything.”
Gordon Elliott’s Mount Benbulben and Willie Mullins’s Prince de Beauchene are the two Irish contenders remaining among the 11 entries left in Thursday’s King George VI Chase at Kempton. Kicking King’s back-to-back victories in 2004-05 were the last Irish victories in the prestigious English highlight.