Ground conditions are likely to be key in deciding which race Latest Exhibition will contest at this weekend’s Dublin Racing Festival.
Paul Nolan’s stable star was widely expected to take on the Willie Mullins-trained Monkfish for a third time in the Flogas Novice Chase on Sunday, having filled the runner-up spot behind him in the Albert Bartlett at Cheltenham last March and at Leopardstown in December.
However, Nolan also left Latest Exhibition in Saturday’s Patrick Ward & Company Solicitors Irish Arkle at the confirmation stage on Tuesday – and the Enniscorthy-based trainer is in no rush to commit to either race just yet.
He said: “We’re just keeping our options open. We’re not 100 per cent sure yet and I don’t want to say any more than that.
“They’re both good races. The Flogas is a longer trip and possibly empties you out a bit more for Cheltenham.
“We’re hoping to God they don’t get too much rain, basically. If they got a couple of days for it to dry out and the ground was on the nicer side of soft, I’d be happier.
“At this time of year, coming into the spring, you’d be hoping that if it got a few dry days Leopardstown could dry up very quickly.”
Latest Exhibition holds entries in the two-and-a-half-mile Marsh Novices’ Chase, the three-mile Festival Novices’ Chase and the National Hunt Chase over three miles and six furlongs at next month’s Cheltenham Festival – and Nolan admits there is no easy option.
He added: “The novice chasers seem to be of a very high standard this year. Even if you went for the National Hunt Chase, you might meet Venetia Williams’ horse (Royal Pagaille), who looks a potential Gold Cup horse.
“You’d imagine no matter what race Envoi Allen goes for he’ll win it. Even if he was in the Gold Cup, he might win it – to me he looks a step above everything and the real ‘Mr Unbeatable’ in my book.
“They seem to be an exceptional bunch of novices. You look at the Irish Gold Cup this weekend, there’s only five horses left in it – and if a top novice like Monkfish ran in it, they wouldn’t look out of place.”
Latest Exhibition will lead a four-strong Nolan team at Leopardstown.
The trainer said: “We have Mrs Milner and Tucanae in the mares’ handicap hurdle on Sunday.
“I thought Mrs Milner ran a nice race in the Pertemps qualifier in Leopardstown the last day, when we probably made too much use of her.
“She’s in the three-mile handicap hurdle this weekend as well, but we’re thinking of dropping her back in trip to run against the mares.
“Tucanae was a bit disappointing in Clonmel last time, but hopefully she’ll run there as well, and we’ll run Fitzhenry in the two-mile-five Leopardstown Handicap Chase.”