Ronald Pump ready for Hatton’s Grace reappearance

Matthew Smith’s Ronald Pump is due to make a Fairyhouse comeback as he takes aim at the Hatton’s Grace Hurdle on Sunday.

The eight-year-old finished half a length behind the unbeaten mare Honeysuckle in the Grade One contest last season, after which he only ran twice more as setbacks interrupted his campaign.

Having overcome those issues a ​return to action is now scheduled for the same race, where the gelding is one of 11 entrants alongside Punchestown Stayers Hurdle winner Klassical Dream and Honeysuckle herself.

“Thankfully this year there’s been no setbacks, so we’re looking forward to him running,” Smith said

“He’s good and he’s ready to run, we’re looking forward to it. Obviously Honeysuckle now looks unbeatable really, but if he ran a similar race to last year then we’d be delighted.

“He ran a cracker last year but unfortunately everything went wrong for him after that.

“Thankfully this year things have been going well, we’re looking forward to getting him back on the track and back in action.”

Ronald Pump is a winner over both hurdles and fences, but the chestnut looks likely to remain over the smaller obstacles this year with the Christmas meeting at Leopardstown a likely next target.

“I would imagine so, yes, that’s the plan with him at the minute anyway,” Smith said when asked if the gelding would continue over hurdles.

“If he comes out of it well, the plan would be to head to Leopardstown at Christmas with him.”

Setback scuppers Cheltenham run for Ronald Pump

Ronald Pump has suffered a setback which has ruled him out of the Paddy Power Stayers’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival.

Trainer Matthew Smith reports it is not serious and is optimistic his stable star will be back in action at the Punchestown Festival at the end of April.

“He’s thrown a splint. It’s going to set him back a few weeks,” said the County Meath handler.

“He did a piece of work last week and was in great form. He’s fit so we’re hoping, fingers crossed, he’ll make it to Punchestown.

“Thankfully it’s nothing serious. He’ll just need a few quiet weeks.”

Ronald Pump, who was beaten just half a length by Honeysuckle in the Hatton’s Grace Hurdle back in November, was as low as 12-1 for the Stayers’ Hurdle on March 18.

Ronald Pump heading straight to Stayers

Ronald Pump is likely to skip an outing in the Boyne Hurdle and head straight to the Paddy Power Stayers’ Hurdle next month.

Trainer Matthew Smith had been considering a trip to Navan for his stable star, who was second to Lisnagar Oscar in the Cheltenham event last season.

Ronald Pump was last seen chasing home Honeysuckle over two and a half miles in the Hatton’s Grace Hurdle, going down by half a length – form which looks even better now, given the exploits of the winner in the Irish Champion Hurdle at the weekend.

“I’d say Ronald Pump will head straight for the Stayers’ Hurdle at Cheltenham,” said Smith.

“I was thinking about the Boyne Hurdle (on Sunday February 21) but really there is no point in going to Navan and maybe getting a hard race on heavy ground.

“It’s also getting that bit closer to Cheltenham, so it would be better to go straight there – and he runs well fresh.

“He missed Leopardstown at Christmas with a stone bruise, but it held him up a bit longer than we expected. He’s fine now and in good form.”

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.”