Cromwell to make late call on Flooring Porter’s Festival target

Gavin Cromwell will make a late decision over whether Flooring Porter bids for a third Stayers’ Hurdle crown or lines up in the National Hunt Chase at Cheltenham.

He took to fences well in October when beating the smart Broadway Boy but connections’ fears about going right-handed were realised next time out in the Florida Pearl at Punchestown, although he was also hampered by a loose horse as he came home third.

Most recently at Leopardstown over Christmas, he finished third behind the currently sidelined Grangeclare West, prompting Cromwell to consider running him over further at Cheltenham in March, but he has not ruled out trying to regain the Stayers’ crown he won in 2021 and 2022.

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“Flooring Porter is in the Stayers’ and the National Hunt Chase. Nothing is definite and we’ll just see how both races are unfolding nearer the time, I definitely wouldn’t rule the Stayers’ out,” said Cromwell.

“I suppose if you take Gordon’s (Elliott’s, Irish Point and Teahupoo) out, the Stayers’ looks open enough which is why he’s still in.

“He got off to a good start over fences, you can rule the Punchestown run out going the wrong way, we may have got away with it if not for the loose horse, but he ran a good race all things considered.

“At Christmas he ran a good race but we were probably disappointed he could only finish third. He jumps well but the one thing is he knows how to win there and spring ground will be no harm.

“It wasn’t always the plan to go chasing but he hadn’t won a race since his second Stayers’, so we thought we’d give it a go.”

Cromwell has been a frequent visitor to the UK this season and is operating at a near 20 per cent strike-rate having had seven winners at Cheltenham already.

Stumptown won a valuable race on New Year's Day
Stumptown won a valuable race on New Year’s Day (Nigel French/PA)

“We started off in October, I saw a couple of races and I thought they looked good opportunities that worked out. We had three winners at the first meeting and then went back in November and kept the ball rolling,” he said.

“We’ve concentrated more on finding the right race, the best example is Stumptown on New Year’s Day, a 50 grand five-runner handicap. If that was in Ireland it would probably be a full field.

“It’s a special place, there’s nothing like a winner at the Festival, any winner there is fantastic. It’s a unique place.

“We’re mostly heading for handicaps this year. The horses are running well so hopefully we get them there in one piece.”

Regarding his likely team he said: “We thought My Mate Mozzie was an Arkle horse, he’s a good Flat horse and a good hurdler without being that top level, so it was always up for debate if he would be good enough.

My Mate Mozzie has the Arkle and Grand Annual as options
My Mate Mozzie has the Arkle and Grand Annual as options (Tim Goode/PA)

“He has a mark so the Grand Annual could come into it but the Arkle is open this year. Saying that, he’d have to run well above his mark to win any Arkle but there is only one Arkle.

“Limerick Lace and Brides Hill are both likely to run in the Mares’ Chase.

“Only By Night is in the Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle but I’d say she might stay at home, she was very disappointing at Lingfield and when she got home she was quiet for a week after, so we just put a line through it.”

Cromwell won the Champion Hurdle back in 2019 with the five-year-old Espoir D’Allen who sadly never ran again. While the trainer is not one for looking back, he admits the win is something to be proud of.

“The Champion Hurdle was a great race to win, it was just unfortunate it was his last race. I’m not one to dwell on the past, I have a massive picture of him and it’s the first thing I see every morning, I’m just not one for dwelling on the past, I’m always looking forwards,” said Cromwell.

“Having won it, it’s a vote of confidence for the owners and it helps them think their horse in good hands.”

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