Mouse Morris takes issue with handicapper over First Lieutenant
Trainer unhappy with 13lb hike for his horse’s Lexus Chase effort
Mouse Morris: “Mouse Morris: “He ran a cracker, but I think he just ran up to his mark” Photo: Alan Crowhurst/Getty
Rated as highly as 170 in his pomp, the 11-year-old endured a disappointing campaign last season and kicked off this term with a mark of 147.
That lower mark helped him to finish a fine third in the Hennessy Gold Cup at Newbury, but after giving leading Cheltenham Gold Cup contender Don Poli a run for his money over the Christmas period, the assessor has handed him a 13lb hike.
Morris said: “He ran a cracker, but I think he just ran up to his mark, to be honest with you. The handicapper has put us up to 160 and I think that’s an overreaction.
“I’d love to agree with him, and then we’d have a Gold Cup horse again, but I can’t.
“The winner wasn’t doing a lot in front and the horses just behind us aren’t Gold Cup horses. I don’t think it was Gold Cup-type race.
“The horse that won the Hennessy (Smad Place) didn’t run that well in the King George, so I think that’s a better reflection of where we are. I think our horse ran to his mark in the Hennessy and again in the Lexus.
“I don’t know where we’ll go now. There’s the Hennessy in Leopardstown, and he’ll probably get an entry in the Thyestes Chase in Gowran as well, but that might come too soon, so we’ll see. He’ll get an entry in the Grand National and maybe the handicapper will take a different view. I hope so, anyway.”
Kitten Rock was found to be suffering from a minor spinal injury following his disappointing run at Naas on Sunday.
The JP McManus-owned six-year-old made a smart start to his career over fences at Navan in November, but finished a disappointing and well-beaten third behind Shaneshill in the Irish Stallion Farms EBF Novice Chase.
“He has had a procedure to hopefully rectify the issue and it will keep him out of action for three weeks. While it was a disappointing run, it was nice to find a reason for it and hopefully we have put it right now.
“It’s too difficult to say at this stage when he’ll be back on the racecourse. We hope to start back with him after three weeks, and that’s the only time-frame I have . . .”
Kitten Rock won six times from nine starts over hurdles and rounded off last season by finishing a creditable sixth in the Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham.