Coral Gold Cup is Mahler’s mission, says McConnell

John McConnell’s Mahler Mission will aim to become just the second winner of the Coral Gold Cup trained in Ireland since 1980 when he lines up at Newbury on Saturday week.

When Michael O’Brien’s Bright Highway took the spoils that year it would have been long odds on it taking so long before another from the Emerald Isle was successful.

Willie Mullins’ Be My Royal did cross the line first in 2002 but was subsequently disqualified for testing positive for a banned substance before Mullins eventually won the contest with Total Recall in 2017.

Mahler Mission still held every chance at Cheltenham in the National Hunt Chase when coming down two out and made a pleasing comeback at Carlisle over a distance shy of his best.

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“He put in an exhibition of jumping at Carlisle over a trip that was too short for him. He’s a very good jumper and was getting tired when he fell at Cheltenham,” said McConnell.

“Ben (Harvey) will be on him. He knows him and gets on with him. We’re looking forward to going for the Coral with a live chance.

“Ben has grown up with me he started when he was 15. He did so well as a conditional. He has a good clock in his head.

“He’s a big horse with a lovely racing weight (10st 10lb). We were always going to go for one of the big handicap chases. This one is a valuable pot run at a lovely track which offers a fair playing field. Physically he looks as good as he’s ever looked. He’s not pretty, but he’s starting to fill out into his frame now.”

Complete Unknown getting ready for action at Aintree
Complete Unknown getting ready for action at Aintree (David Davies/PA)

Also at the head of the market is Paul Nicholls’ Complete Unknown who teed himself up for a crack at this when beating Might I at Newton Abbot in October having chased home Gerri Colombe at Aintree in a Grade One last spring.

“Complete Unknown has had a good prep and will be our only runner in the Coral,” said the champion trainer, on hand at Newbury to watch several of his horses go through their paces.

“He’s been trained for the race and the big galloping track will suit him. He’s had a breathing operation which has helped him, and the softer it is the better.”

Nicholls also had an update on one of his big hopes for the season, Hermes Allen, who is going novice chasing.

He said: “Hermes Allen had a setback with a stone bruise and missed three weeks. This day out will have tightened him up a bit and he could possibly run in the John Francome next week.”

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Jonjo O’Neill won the race three years ago with Cloth Cap and appears to have another live contender in Monbeg Genuis based on his Cheltenham run.

He finished third behind subsequent Grand National winner Corach Rambler and Punchestown Gold Cup hero Fastorslow but he pulled up at Ascot on his comeback.

“I’m very happy with Monbeg Genius. The plan is to come here and he looks the right type for the race. He’s a good stayer and a strong galloper and everything looks right. If he puts in the performance he did in the Ultima he’s in with every chance,” said O’Neill.

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