Long Walk Hurdle an option for Ronald Pump

Ronald Pump could head to the Long Walk Hurdle at Ascot after his fine run behind Honeysuckle in the Hatton’s Grace at Fairyhouse on Sunday.

The Matthew Smith-trained eight-year-old was making his seasonal comeback in the race having last run at Auteuil in May.

Ronald Pump finished second behind the unbeaten Honeysuckle in last year’s Hatton’s Grace, an outcome that materialised again as the mare won the race for a third consecutive season and Ronald Pump came home the runner-up once more.

“We were delighted with him, he ran a cracker and we were very happy,” Smith said.

“Honeysuckle is phenomenal, she is unreal so we were over the moon with our horse – we’d said before that if he could finish second to her then we’d be delighted.”

A quality field of eight lined up for the Grade One, five of whom were already winners at that level with the remaining runner, Joseph O’Brien’s Darasso, a horse who has been successful twice in Grade Two contests.

“I think they were nearly all winners of Grade Ones, everything that finished behind him, so it was a great run against good horses,” said Smith.

“They went a good gallop as well and he’s a three-miler, that’s his trip really.”

A step up to the gelding’s preferred distance could be next on the agenda, with the trainer inclined to enter Ronald Pump in both the Christmas Hurdle at Leopardstown and the Long Walk Hurdle at Ascot, run over three miles and three miles and half a furlong respectively.

“He might get an entry in the Long Walk Hurdle now, either that or Leopardstown at Christmas,” he said.

“We’re keeping our options open, we’ll have a look at both of the entries and see.”

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.

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.”