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Late setback forces Ronald Pump to bypass Christmas date

Ronald Pump has been ruled out of the Grade One Christmas Hurdle at Leopardstown after he was found to be lame on Monday morning.

Trainer Matthew Smith called in the farrier, who discovered the seven-year-old had a stone bruise.

“Unfortunately he was lame this morning,” said the County Meath handler.

“The farrier was in and found he had a stone bruise.

“It’s very disappointing. These things happen unfortunately.

“He’ll be fine. It’s just that he’s not able to run today.”

Ronald Pump was a leading fancy for the three-mile hurdle feature, having finished second in last season’s Stayers’ Hurdle at Cheltenham and runner-up to Honeysuckle in the Hatton’s Grace at Fairyhouse a month ago.

Dual Festival winner heads Elliott’s attack on Christmas Hurdle

Sire Du Berlais spearheads a triple assault on the Leopardstown Christmas Hurdle for trainer Gordon Elliott.

The Cullentra handler saddled the brilliant mare Apple’s Jade to claim this Grade One prize in each of the past three seasons and appears intent on adding to his tally on Monday.

The JP McManus-owned Sire Du Berlais is the narrow favourite. The eight-year-old is a dual winner of the Pertemps Final at the Cheltenham Festival and made a flying start to the current campaign with victory in the Lismullen Hurdle at Navan last month.

He is joined by Fury Road, who also impressed on his reappearance at Punchestown, as well as The Storyteller, who reverts to the smaller obstacles after winning the Ladbrokes Champion Chase at Down Royal.

“Fury Road was a really good staying novice and the form of his Albert Bartlett third at Cheltenham looks strong. I’m hoping he will make up into a strong Stayers’ Hurdle contender in the spring,” Elliott told Betfair.

“Sire Du Berlais is heading down the Stayers’ route after winning the last two Pertemps Finals at Cheltenham. I was delighted with his comeback win at Navan and he’ll improve for that run and the step up to three miles.

“The Storyteller is a great favourite around the yard and has done us proud this season already. I think he’s as good over hurdles as he is over fences and we’re trying him at this level to see what sort of route we might take with him through the second half of the season.”

Mouse Morris is represented by Lismullen runner-up French Dynamite, Gavin Cromwell runs Flooring Porter and Willie Mullins saddles both Bacardys and Bapaume.

Patrick Mullins, assistant to his father, he said: “They’re both top-class horses on their day and their ratings entitle them to take part.

“We’re hoping they can pick up some place money, but some funny results can happen at Christmas and if you’re not in, you can’t win.”

Smith eyes Leopardstown with Ronald Pump

Matthew Smith was delighted to see Ronald Pump push Honeysuckle so close in the Hatton’s Grace Hurdle at Fairyhouse.

Runner-up to Lisnagar Oscar in the Stayers’ Hurdle at Cheltenham in March, that was the seven-year-old’s outstanding piece of form before Sunday, and Smith believes he has now well and truly proven himself a Grade One performer.

Leopardstown’s three-mile Christmas Hurdle on December 28 is therefore next on his agenda.

“He ran a serious race,” said Smith.

“In another two strides, the ground he was making up, he’d have got her all right – but that’s the way it goes.

“There’s no doubt about it, he’s a Grade One horse.

“They went no gallop and then sprinted turning in, and he was just caught a little flat-footed but then he got going.

“He didn’t jump the last as cleanly as you would have liked, which also stopped him making ground, but I was delighted with the run.

Honeysuckle just held on from Ronald Pump in the Hatton's Grace
Honeysuckle just held on from Ronald Pump in the Hatton’s Grace (PA Wire)

“That’s given us confidence going into Christmas now, because we know he’s back to his best, and he’ll be better off over three miles – the further the better.

“The Stayers’ is his race at Cheltenham, but if he’s sound and everything he’ll have options at Aintree. To show the turn of foot he did on Sunday, that long straight at Aintree over two and a half might suit.

“We were delighted with how well he ran – but having come so close, we were a bit gutted too.”

Lismullen Hurdle option for Ronald Pump

Stayers’ Hurdle second Ronald Pump may make his seasonal reappearance at Navan next week.

The seven-year-old was last seen at the Cheltenham Festival, finishing two lengths behind Lisnagar Oscar in the three-mile Grade One showpiece.

The Lismullen Hurdle, a Grade Two event run over two miles and four furlongs on November 8, is the likely scene of his return.

“He’s not far away from a run now, hopefully in the next couple of weeks,” said trainer Matthew Smith.

“We’ll probably give him an entry in the Lismullen Hurdle at Navan.”

Smith confirmed Ronald Pump will not be back jumping fences this season, despite having a successful spell novice-chasing last winter, and will instead aim once again for the Stayers’ title.

“That’ll be the plan (the Stayers’ Hurdle), all being well,” he said.

“We’ve decided we’re going to stick to hurdles with him for the time being – obviously he ran a cracker there (Cheltenham) last year, so we’ll stay over hurdles for the minute.

“He’s looking good, in good form so we’ll enter him for (the Lismullen) and if we’re happy we’ll go there. If not we’ll wait for another, but I’d say he’ll be ready for that.”