Paul Nolan will hunt for better ground as he plans the next steps in his Cheltenham Festival runner-up Latest Exhibition’s novice chase campaign.
The seven-year-old, second in the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle in March, was sent off the odds-on favourite for the Grade Two Florida Pearl Novice Chase at Punchestown on Sunday but had to settle for minor honours again, seven lengths behind Pencilfulloflead.
That was his second start over fences after an initial course-and-distance success in a beginners’ chase last month.
Nolan put the defeat down to the heavy going, and hopes there will be better ground to be found at Leopardstown’s Christmas meeting.
“Of course we were disappointed – but I just think with the extreme heavy ground, possibly he didn’t just act as well on it,” said the Wexford trainer.
“On the day he was definitely beaten by a better horse – and hopefully there’ll be a little bit of not-so-heavy ground on another day, and we can head for Leopardstown at Christmas.
“Hopefully he’ll handle the ground that bit better, but certainly that’s what we blame anyway. He just didn’t act the same or pick up the same in the really heavy conditions.”
Mrs Milner also collected a runner-up spot for Nolan over the weekend when beaten a neck by On The Blind Side in the Listed Paddy Power Games Handicap Hurdle at Cheltenham.
The five-year-old’s British rating is 7lb higher than her Irish mark, an increase Nolan felt could have cost her the race because margin of defeat was so narrow.
“Mrs Milner was good – she was just unfortunate,” he said.
“Looking at it now, she was rated 123 in Ireland, and I suppose the 7lb that she got in England unfortunately just got her beaten by that bit of a distance. If it had have been a four or five-pound hike she might have won.
“Then again, she had plenty of time to get past him (On The Blind Side) – and she didn’t. It was just unfortunate to get so near to large black type at Cheltenham, and get beaten by so little on the day.
“She’s a very consistent filly and hopefully she’ll remain consistent for the rest of the season. We were delighted with the run – it was just unfortunate to get so close.”
Nolan also sent Discorama over to Cheltenham for the Planteur At Chapel Stud Handicap Chase, in which he finished a distant fifth of six runners.
“We were disappointed with how he ran – we thought he was in great shape,” he said.
“Maybe he was just that bit too fresh, just too keen early on – and in that sort of ground if you won’t settle you’ve no chance. He just pulled too hard early on in the race, pulled his way to the front – and when that happens it’s very, very seldom over that sort of trip that you’ll finish out your race.
“He’s never been that way before, never acted that way before, and that’s why we’re just going to draw a line through it. He was just too keen – the race was basically over (for him) after four or five fences.”
Having been placed at three consecutive Cheltenham Festivals, including when third in the Grade Three Ultima Handicap Chase this year, Discorama finds himself running off a mark of 150 – which makes him tough to place.
“We’ll wait and see now – unfortunately with the programme, there’s not much for him,” added Nolan.
“He’s in no man’s land really, with regards to his mark. Do you run him in Grade Twos and Grade Ones against the top horses, where he’s more than a stone wrong on his rating? But there are times when you get a bit of luck on the day, and you never know what will happen.
“That was a bit of a plan to go to Cheltenham, that backfired on us.
“It didn’t work out, so we’ll just assess it now over the next few days. We’ll make a bit of plan from there and see how we go.”