Cheltenham heroes Chatham Street Lad and The Shunter could lock horns in the Dan & Joan Moore Memorial Chase at Fairyhouse on Saturday.
The Mick Winters-trained trained Chatham Street Lad was a brilliant winner of the Caspian Caviar Gold Cup at Prestbury Park last month, while The Shunter won the Greatwood Hurdle in November for Emmet Mullins.
The pair are among 25 remaining contenders for this weekend’s 75,000 euros contest, with Joseph O’Brien’s Front View and Impact Factor from Jessica Harrington’s yard potentially bidding to follow up recent course wins.
Gordon Elliott has left in six horses, including Chosen Mate, winner of the Grand Annual at last season’s Cheltenham Festival, while Willie Mullins has both Fan De Blues and Pont Aven.
Noel Meade’s Daly Tiger made an impressive start to the current campaign at Punchestown in November, but disappointed at Fairyhouse on his latest appearance.
Meade said: “Daly Tiger may run in the Dan Moore at Fairyhouse on Saturday. We’ll see how things progress this week.
“I don’t know why he ran so poorly the last day. Nothing went right for him and we’ll just have to put a line through it.”
Also featuring on Saturday’s card is the ITM Virtual Stallion Trail Hurdle, for which Gordon Elliott has entered Quilixios.
An impressive winner at both Punchestown and Down Royal, he tops a bumper entry of 17 along with the Willie Mullins-trained Youmdor.
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Sayce Gold will be ready to run again next month, with the benefit of a short break following her defeat at Thurles.
The Mick Winters-trained mare won a bumper, a maiden hurdle and a Grade Three all in the space of four weeks.
She then dropped back a mile to the minimum trip for a Listed event at Thurles, but was never travelling with her usual zest and trailed in well beaten.
“I’ll start looking at races for her after February 1,” said Winters.
“There’s a race at Navan she could run in next month – we’re just looking after her, because she’s a big horse.
“We’re happy with her. Last time we might have just gone to the well a bit soon – but it could have been ground, (or) it could have been the trip.
“The jockey (Darragh O’Keeffe) reported to the stewards that she didn’t give him the same drag down to the start even.”
Winters himself sensed in the preliminaries that Sayce Gold was perhaps not quite herself.
He said: “I thought before the race she was a little fractious.
“That was unusual, because she can be moody at home but usually when she gets to the track she’s very quiet and professional.
“She’s had a couple of weeks off, has just been ridden back for the first time – and we’ll look for a race in February.
“I’ll have a chat with Mick Meagher (owner Trevor Hemmings’ racing manager).”
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Chatham Street Lad is on target for the Dan & Joan Moore Memorial Handicap Steeplechase at Fairyhouse on January 18.
The Mick Winters-trained eight-year-old turned the Caspian Caviar Gold Cup at Cheltenham into a procession last month.
He will now drop down in trip for the two-mile-one-furlong contest and will have several entries at the Cheltenham Festival.
“His owners take a real interest in the racing and go to a lot of trouble picking out the right races,” said Winters on Monday.
“I probably wouldn’t have considered the Cheltenham race so I’m happy to roll along with them and go to Fairyhouse.
“He’s in super form, he’s at the peak of his career you could say. He did a piece of work this morning, I know the lass on him was light, but he was flying along.
“It was two and a half (miles) last time and it means coming back in trip, but I don’t think it’s a big thing. The thing about coming back in trip is we might find out he’s a Champion Chase-type and then you meet a different calibre.
“He’s a big, strong horse. I’ve had a lot of point-to-pointers through the yard, but this one stands out.
“He’s very happy in himself so we’ll try to keep him together until then.”
Given Chatham Street Lad is still a novice he is likely to have plenty of options come March.
“I think the owners are going to spend a bit of money when it comes to Cheltenham and cover all options like the Champion Chase, Ryanair and the handicaps and he’s still a novice you see,” said Winters.
“Looking at the novices over Christmas you have Shishkin, Envoi Allen and Paul Nolan’s horse (Latest Exhibition) that we might come up against, so we’ll have to work it out.
“The big, galloping tracks suit him and if you had a choice of going left or right with him you’d go left.”
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Eight days after taking Cheltenham by storm with Chatham Street Lad, Mick Winters is hoping Sayce Gold can win her fourth successive race in the Irish Stallion Farms EBF Boreen Belle Mares Novice Hurdle at Thurles.
Chatham Street Lad was a brilliant winner of last Saturday’s Caspian Caviar Gold Cup in the Cotswolds, after which his ever-popular trainer performed a celebratory roll on the ground in the Prestbury Park winner’s enclosure.
While scenes are likely to be a more low-key should Sayce Gold triumph in Listed company on Sunday, she is undoubtedly an exciting prospect – having already won a Fairyhouse bumper, a Thurles maiden hurdle and a Grade Three at Cork this term.
“We were worried about the extra trip going up to three miles in Mallow (Cork), and now we’re coming back to two miles, so we’ll see how it goes,” said Winters.
“She looks well in herself, and we’re very hopeful and looking forward to it.
“She has to give a bit of weight away to the younger horses. But she’s a big, strong mare – and it’s not going to be easy for four-year-olds in very soft ground.
“This mare has her job done so far, and hopefully she can keep it going.”
The Trevor Hemmings-owned Sayce Gold heads a field of 11 runners, with a pair of unbeaten four-year-olds in Henry de Bromhead’s Kapard and the Willie Mullins-trained course-and-distance winner Gauloise among her rivals.
Winters also provided an upbeat report on Chatham Street Lad’s condition, with connections identifying a handicap chase at Fairyhouse in the new year as a potential next target.
The eight-year-old was priced up for the Marsh Novices’ Chase, the RSA Chase and the Ryanair Chase at the Cheltenham Festival following his latest triumph, and his trainer is in no rush to decide where he will end up come March.
He said: “We had an enjoyable trip across the water. We were well looked after, and we really appreciated it.
“It was very exciting watching the young jockey on him (Darragh O’Keeffe) floating down the hill. It’s made us all walk a little bit lighter for the moment!
“The horse has come back home very well – the race didn’t knock a feather out of him, and he came out of it without a scratch. He travelled better home than he went.
“The owners are thinking of running in Fairyhouse in January – there’s a two-mile-one-furlong handicap chase there. He’s in great order and he might go there.
“The owners have plenty of time on their hands because they’re half in lockdown, so they’ll be studying away seeing what’s what.
“I think he’s improving all the time, and he can have a bit of time off over Christmas while we all watch the King George and the big races at Leopardstown and stuff like that.”
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Chatham Street Lad ran out an impressive winner of the Caspian Caviar Gold Cup at Cheltenham, giving jockey Darragh O’Keeffe the biggest success of his career.
Trained by Mick Winters, the eight-year-old had won two of his last three, but looked a class apart as he bounded up the hill.
O’Keeffe always looked full of confidence as he moved into a challenging position coming down the hill, with Paddy Power Gold Cup winner Coole Cody, Benatar, Master Tommytucker and Midnight Shadow all still in contention.
On landing in front at the second last, however, the Irish challenger sprinted clear and absolutely flew the final fence.
The 16-1 chance beat Midnight Shadow by 15 lengths, with the northern raider in turn well clear of Benatar and Good Boy Bobby in fourth.
Chatham Street Lad was introduced him into Betfair’s Ryanair Chase betting at 20-1.
Winters said: “It was outstanding – it was a local jockey as well. He has come down to school on the horse lately and the horse has improved.
“The owners have always had horses in and they have a couple of pubs locally and things. In fairness he won well in Cork (last time out). This is spectacular.
“I’d be very humble about this. Racing is very special and the horses are treated so kind and people don’t realise it. It would be great to give something back as we are only passing through.
“I was confident we would run a blinder. Once he got over the last fence, I was hopeful after that. He is not Flat-bred he was bred for National Hunt, that’s why he was bought and he will keep developing.
“I don’t know where we might go next, but hopefully we might be back here (for the Festival) or at Aintree. He fiddled a couple of jumps and missed a few fences here and there, but I asked the jockey and he said he got in tight.”
Winters chose to celebrate his first Cheltenham winner in an unusual way, by rolling in the paddock.
He explained: “I said if he won, I would do like the pig and roll in the muck as that is what the pig does, so I had to back it up.
“We got here for the Foxhunters years ago and we finished mid-division. We all dream of the Foxhunters, but nowadays it has gone on a bit tough, so you dream of these races.”
O’Keeffe was also claiming his first victory at Cheltenham and added: “It was awesome.
“The one thing I thought might let him down was his jumping a bit, and at times it kind of did today. He was just a bit green.
“He travelled like a dream, he did make a few mistakes but when I wanted him, he was awesome.
“When Micky Winters comes over to England, he’s got to be taken seriously because when he has the ammunition he’s well able to train them. I’m very grateful to him for giving me the opportunity.
“We thought he’d run well, but we didn’t think he’d do that. It’s brilliant.
“When I was a child, I remember watching Ruby Walsh, Tony McCoy, Barry Geraghty and everyone coming up the hill and I always hoped at some stage of my career I would get to ride a winner here. It’s unbelievable,” he told ITV Racing.
Sayce Gold looks a hugely exciting prospect for Mick Winters having strolled to victory in the Kerry Group Stayers Novice Hurdle at Cork.
Winters has scaled the heights of the game with the likes of Rebel Fitz and Missunited – and after a few quiet seasons he looks sure to be back in big time with this Trevor Hemmings-owned mare.
The seven-year-old won a point-to-point last November and broke her duck under rules in her second bumper at Fairyhouse last month.
Sent immediately over hurdles, the imposing type stepped up to just short of three miles at Thurles and fairly bolted up, making all the running.
Up in class to Grade Three company on this occasion, she was ridden with more restraint by Darragh O’Keeffe but never looked in any danger.
Always travelling extremely strongly, O’Keeffe was happy to stick to the rail while several rivals went in search of better ground and on turning into the straight Sayce Gold (7-4) was clear.
She did not have to be asked a question to beat Ragnar Lodbrok by eight lengths.
“We are very lucky to have one like that and we have great help at home and all work together. Darragh O’Keeffe came over the other day when Brian Hayes (riding at Punchestown) couldn’t make it and did a bit of work with her,” said Winters.
“She learned a bit today as she didn’t have to do it all in front.
“I think two and a half miles is perfect for her and soft ground is a help – if the ground was too quick you wouldn’t run, she loves to put her toe into it. I have no idea what plans are and I’ll leave that to Mick Meagher, Trevor’s manager.”
Reflecting on some of the good horses he has had in his care, Winters said: “Some horses you can see, some you can’t. When Rebel Fitz came into the yard, he reminded me of Master Minded, although I had one horse Monsignor (dual Cheltenham winner) who was a great mover and I even had him out hunting, but he slipped me.
“I had him out hunting and a man hopped off him after a day’s hunting and said ‘he’s only a hunter!’.
“If she (Sayce Gold) is one piece and we are all alive, fences are tempting.”
Mount Ida put in a huge leap at the final fence to win the Kerry Group Irish EBF Mares Novice Chase.
Trained by Gordon Elliott, the six-year-old had finished one place behind Joseph O’Brien’s Scarlet And Dove in third at this track last month, and the two met again on the same terms.
It was the two main market protagonists who were fighting out the finish in the straight and the final fence proved a turning point.
Denis O’Regan was positive on his mount, asking for everything, and she fairly flew it, while Scarlet And Dove was not quite as fluent.
Mount Ida, the 5-2 favourite, went on to win by four and a half lengths.
“She stayed at it well. I felt if she showed up in the same form as the last day, with a good round of jumping, and go forward a bit earlier, she was bound to be competitive,” said O’Regan.
“She possibly came forward from her run the last day and that run the last day wasn’t a bad race. It is lovely to win the race and get the black type all in one.
“It’s great to get a winner for Gordon.”
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