Shark Hanlon concedes King George hero Hewick is a worthy top-weight for this year’s Randox Grand National at Aintree.

The last-gasp Kempton winner has been handed 11st 12lb for the April 13 spectacular, putting him at the top of the 87 contenders for the extended four-and-a-quarter-mile contest.

A Cheltenham Gold Cup date awaits next month first, however, with Hanlon dreaming of a big-race hat-trick in the crown jewels of the staying chase calendar.

He said: “I knew he’d have top-weight. You have to expect that. He probably deserves top-weight.

“I think the trip will suit him. He’s going for the Gold Cup first and please God he comes out of the Gold Cup safe and if he does he’ll definitely head there (to Aintree).

“It’s a mighty day. It’s one of those days you look forward to all year. The National, the Gold Cup and the King George at Kempton – they’re the three big days in England aren’t they, so it’s great to have a runner there.”

While Hewick – who is one of 56 Irish-trained possibles – has proven himself at Grade One level and numbers the American Grand National on his CV, he is no stranger to major handicaps, with the €850 purchase having prevailed off 11st 7lb in the 2022 Galway Plate after also landing the bet365 Gold Cup off 3lb less.

Hanlon feels conditions rather than weights are key for his contender, with the revised safety limit of 34 meaning there is just 20lb between Hewick and those who would be at the bottom of the field, with Latenightpass, Minella Crooner and Run Wild Fred all sitting on 10st 6lb.

He added: “The most important thing is that he gets good ground. With fewer runners in the race this year, there won’t be quite as much weight between us and the horses at the bottom. In previous years the difference could be a fair bit more and we’d be giving more away.

“He won the Galway Plate off nearly top-weight, he won the bet365 (Oaksey Chase at Sandown Park) off a big weight. It’s not that he’s not used to carrying top-weight and he carries it very well.

“All is great with him and he couldn’t be better. I’m very, very happy with him.”

Last year’s winner Corach Rambler is off 11st 2lb this time for Lucinda Russell, having triumphed carrying 10st 5lb, with the second-placed Vanillier allotted 10st 8lb – just 2lb more than in 2023 – as he tries to turn the tables.

Conflated, one of a battalion of Gordon Elliott-trained entries, is second in the handicap on 11st 9lb while 2022 winner Noble Yeats is 1lb lower, with Emmet Mullins plotting a Stayers’ Hurdle spin at Cheltenham before another Aintree challenge.

Cotswold Chase winner Capodanno is the highest-weighted of Willie Mullins’ team on 11st 4lb – the same weight as Gary Moore’s Welsh National winner, Nassalam.

The John McConnell-trained Mahler Mission has been among the leading contenders for some time and has been given 11st 1lb, with other key names including Henry de Bromead’s pair of 2021 Gold Cup winner Minella Indo (11st 2lb) and Aint That A Shame (10st 9lb), who was a gamble in the race last year but trailed home well beaten.

Six fewer runners will go to post this year as part of safety changes made by Aintree, with the reduction in field size leaving some fancied names already needing a number of runners to drop out.

The Jonjo O’Neill-trained Monbeg Genius is one of six entries currently sitting on 10st 4lb with a number in the low 40s, which would have been sufficient in many other years to make the final field, while Panda Boy – one of four 14-1 co-second-favourites with William Hill, is rated 1lb below but at a number in the 50s.

Dual Derby winner Auguste Rodin has a ticket to Dubai booked for the Sheema Classic as a mixed turf and dirt campaign beckons.

The Deep Impact colt is out of multiple Group One winner Rhododendron and lived up to his exceptional pedigree when taking both the Derby and Irish Derby last term.

He capped his domestic season by winning another Group One title in the Irish Champion Stakes at Leopardstown, after which he set sail for Santa Anita and defeated a competitive field to land the Breeders’ Cup Turf.

After that performance there was some discussion as to whether he would retire to stud or stay in training, with connections sportingly choosing the latter option.

A winter break followed and the four-year-old is due to return in the Sheema Classic, run over a mile and a half at the Dubai World Cup fixture in Meydan in late March.

Auguste Rodin did a piece of work on the all-weather track at Dundalk ahead of the journey, after which he has a turf campaign pencilled in before connections expect to discuss running him on a dirt surface.

O’Brien – who runs Luxembourg and Tower Of London in Saudi Arabia on Saturday – said: “That’s the plan for him, the Sheema Classic, then we were thinking of going back for the Tattersalls Gold Cup and then maybe to Ascot for the Prince of Wales’s.

“We’ll have a look at racing him on the dirt after that, it’s very possible with these types of horses that you can push the boundaries a bit and explore a little bit and see what happens.

“He was at Dundalk on Friday, he went a mile and a quarter with three other horses and went very well.

“He came back then and started preparing for Dubai, that’s the plan.”

Humble Lion FC have been punished by the Jamaica Football Federation (JFF) competitions Committee for its use of an ineligible player in their Wray and Nephew Jamaica Premier League encounter against Montego Bay United on Sunday.

The game which ended 2-1 to Humble Lion at Wespow Park, has now been awarded to Montego Bay United by a 3-0 scoreline, after the Clarendon-based team was found in breach of Article 17.2 and 18.3.i of the Jamaica Premier League regulations.

This follows an appeal by Montego Bay United's management, after documents in an email from the Jamaica Football Federation’s Competitions Committee pointed out, in red highlighted letters, that the player in question had accumulated five yellow cards and was not eligible to play against MBU on Sunday.

As a result of the ruling, Montego Bay United moves up to 26 points, but remain eighth, while Humble Lion has been relegated to 11th position on 18 points.  Cavalier continues to head the standing on 43 points, one ahead of Mount Pleasant Football Academy, on 42 points, with Portmore United in third on 39 points.

Tivoli Gardens (37 points), Arnett Gardens (35 points) and Waterhouse FC (27 points), currently occupies the other playoff positions.


Oisin Murphy can call on some familiar names when he heads to Saudi Arabia for the world’s most valuable racing festival this weekend.

The 28-year-old has clocked up the air miles this winter riding across the globe and has picked up three plum rides on Saturday’s Saudi Cup card at the King Abdulaziz Racecourse.

Murphy guided The Foxes to Dante glory for long-time training ally Andrew Balding prior to finishing fifth in the Derby at Epsom, and now has the chance to go one better than when narrowly denied in the Belmont Derby last July.

The King Power Racing-owned four-year-old tuned up for his Middle East assignment in the Neom Turf Cup by running on the Tapeta at Southwell, with rivals in the $2million event set to include Aidan O’Brien’s Hong Kong Cup runner-up Luxembourg.

“The Foxes had his prep race at Southwell and I’ve ridden him at home in between and Andrew is very happy with him,” said Murphy.

“I should have won a Grade One on him in America in the Belmont Derby. He got no run then, but fast ground and left-handed suits him.

“I think apart from Luxemburg, on ratings he should be bang there, and I’m really looking forward to him.”

Murphy also enjoyed plenty of joy aboard Kieran Cotter’s Matilda Picotte at the backend of last season and will be hoping to pick up some more prize-money aboard the top-class Irish filly.

The four-year-old has excelled over seven furlongs previously and with the trip for the $2m Turf Sprint run over a distance just shy of that number, the jockey believes a bold bid is possible.

“Matilda Picotte has a lot of speed and was brilliant last year,” continued Murphy.

“Her form in the autumn went up to another level and I think the distance is probably ideal – just under seven furlongs.

“She’s got so much natural speed and although it is a different type of track maybe to where her best performances have come – Doncaster and Newmarket – she has plenty of racing experience now and I hope I will get a nice draw on her.”

The Irishman, who away from the globetrotting is in red-hot form back on the all-weather in the UK, also rides Marco Botti’s Yorkshire Cup winner Giavellotto in the Red Sea Turf Handicap.

“Giavellotto is going to carry a lot of weight but he is a big horse and his form is really good for this sort of race,” added Murphy.

“I remember Andrea (Atzeni) winning on him at York and a repeat of that sort of performance would put him right in the mix.”

After clinching a 1-0 preliminary phase win over Guyana, Caribbean representative Dominican Republic will bow into group stage action at the inaugural Concacaf Women's Gold Cup on Tuesday evening.

However, their task will be as tough as it can get to kick off a tournament, as they are up against four-time World Champions United States in the feature contest of a Group A double-header at the Dignity Health Sports Park. Mexico and Argentina will lock horns in the curtain-raiser, with the games scheduled for 7:30pm and 10:15pm Eastern Standard Time.

United States vs. Dominican Republic

Having won all there is to win in the Concacaf region and also on the world stage, there is no doubt that United States, the reigning Concacaf Women's Championship title holders, start as one of the favourites, if not the overwhelming favourite to become the first champions of this Women's Gold Cup. That basically underscores the difficulty of Dominican Republic's assignment to get things underway.

Rated as the most decorated team in the world, United States qualified to the Women's Gold Cup after topping the 2022 Concacaf Women's Championship, with victory in all five games played. They’re returning to the main stage after they exited the 2023 Women's World Cup at the Round of 16 stage and will be under the guidance of interim coach Twila Kilgore, until new Head Coach Emma Hayes takes the reins.

With this new leadership, United States women's outfit will try to get another Concacaf trophy under their belt, and players like striker Sophia Smith, who has 15 goals within major tournaments like the World Cup and Women's Championship, will be integral to their chances of achieving the feat.

Midfielder Lindsey Horan, who captained the team in Australia/New Zealand, where she scored two goals, and was one of the difference-makers during the qualifying tournament, will also be a key factor in a stacked United States team.

Still, Dominican Republic will be optimistic of giving a good account of themselves, as rubbing shoulders with United States will certainly give their women's programme a great deal of confidence going forward.

In fact, the Spanish-speaking Caribbean women have grown in confidence since their Gold Cup qualifying run, where they amassed five wins and a solitary loss in six League B games, with 24 goals to their credit. The likes of Kathrynn González, who scored the banger against Guyana in the preliminary, and Mia Asenjo, who had nine shots on Saturday, will be key to Dominican Republic's chances of possibly finding the net.

Goalkeeper Paloma Pena, who made key saves against Guyana, will be hoping to repeat her clean sheet feat on this occasion.


Mexico vs. Argentina 

Prior to the United States and Dominican Republic clash, Mexico and Argentina will square off. The two are familiar with each other, having shared the pitch at the Pan American Games, where Mexico won 2-0 in the semi-finals to improve to an overall record to four wins and a loss against Argentina.

Under Head Coach Pedro Lopez, Mexico registered victory in all four games in Group A of League A, and with the disappointment of missing last year's World Cup still fresh in their minds, they will be hoping to make amends to an extent, with a deep run in this tournament.

Players like Maria Sanchez, who scored two goals and had the most shots (13), and Natalia Mauleon, who made an impression with the Under-17 and Under-20 National Teams, will again be aiming to make an impact as they did in the qualifiers.

Argentina, who placed third at the CONMEBOL Copa America Femenina in 2022, with four wins and two losses, will be intent of showing their class to get a win on North American soil.

Head Coach German Portanova has generational talent in players like Yamila Rodriguez, who was the top scorer of the 2022 Copa America with six goals. Another Argentinian sensation is Sophia Braun, who got on the scoresheet at last year's World Cup.


Harry Fry is poised to let Boothill take a shot at the Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase, despite his star chaser heading into the Cheltenham Festival on the back of two falls.

A winner of seven of his 17 starts, the nine-year-old has claimed Grade Two honours over fences and started the current campaign in blistering form, winning two valuable Ascot handicaps at two miles.

Testing conditions saw him miss out on a run in the Tingle Creek at Sandown, but he has returned to graded company the last twice where he has failed to complete in both the Desert Orchid at Kempton and Newbury’s Game Spirit Chase earlier this month.

However, Fry has few concerns about Boothill’s jumping and rather than face the burden of top-weight in the Grand Annual, is preferring to let his charge take his chance in the feature of Wednesday’s Festival action, where his rivals are likely to include the mighty duo of El Fabiolo and Jonbon.

“He’s fine and come out of the race at Newbury well and we’re still working towards Cheltenham, albeit it’s not an ideal prep coming down the last twice,” said Fry.

“Fundamentally he jumps well, he has just made two mistakes and fallen on the two occasions he has made a mistake. He’s fine in himself and it’s got to be onwards and upwards.”

He went on: “At Newbury we knew the ground had gone against him, but having fallen at Kempton, we knew it was our last opportunity to run and we just thought we would use it to get a clear round under his belt.

“Unfortunately the heavy ground just finds his wind out and that was exactly what Johnny (Burke, jockey) said – going to the second last his wind just gave out on him and he just made a tired lunge at the fence rather than a genuine mistake. He’s normally very surefooted.

“It’s either the Champion Chase or carry top-weight in the Grand Annual and we’re inclined to let him take his chance (in the Champion Chase) on hopefully a bit better ground.

“Wee’re not saying we’ll go there and win, but if he was to run a good race then you never know.”

Alice Capsey has set her sights on World Cup glory with England this year after a rollercoaster 2023.

The teenage sensation has enjoyed a rapid rise since starring in the inaugural Hundred at the age of 16, being snapped up by franchise leagues around the globe and making her international bow in both white-ball formats during the ensuing two-and-a-half-years.

Capsey played her part in the drawn Women’s Ashes last summer, but was also involved in the England team which lost in the semi-finals of the Twenty20 World Cup at the start of 2023.

The next World Cup will take place in Bangladesh later this year and the explosive batter wants to help Heather Knight’s side go all the way.

“Hopefully we can go one better this year and not have the same disappointment we had,” Red Bull athlete Capsey told the PA news agency.

“What we’ve got in the dressing room at the moment is a really fun and supportive culture. Everyone is loving being a part of it and the freedom we’re given.

“People really came out and watched us in the Ashes, so we want to keep building momentum. We want to keep showing what women’s cricket is about.

“We speak a lot in the dressing room about inspiring and entertaining. I think that shows in how we play and I hope it does, but that’s another thing we’ll look to build on and do even better this year. It is a really exciting year.”

Last year started with Capsey facing a race against time to be fit for the T20 World Cup in February after she broke her collarbone in the West Indies two months earlier.

Capsey recovered but was out for a duck in England’s semi-final loss to South Africa before she was whisked off to India for the inaugural Women’s Premier League, where she helped Delhi Capitals finish runners-up.


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A maiden Ashes series was the next assignment for Capsey, who struck a classy 46 in a memorable five-wicket victory over Australia at a packed Lord’s and followed it up with an important 40 in another nail-bitter at Bristol.

The final act of 2023, after featuring in the Hundred and Big Bash League in Australia, was England’s tour of India where red-ball disappointment followed for the 19-year-old after she had also been overlooked for the one-off Ashes Test in June.

“It has definitely been a rollercoaster,” Capsey admitted.

“Yeah, international cricket and any international sport is hard. It takes a toll on the mind and also physically so those couple of injuries didn’t help me, but I am starting to find my way now of how to manage it all.

“It was a season of highs and lows, but I probably didn’t perform as well as I would have liked. I was a bit inconsistent and that is something I want to work on and is definitely a goal I am looking towards for 2024.

“It was a really enjoyable year. A lot of firsts again which sounds a bit crazy after the last three years but it was brilliant.

“Playing in a World Cup and things like that, they are all high-pressure moments. Hopefully the more moments like that I have, the better I will get at competing in them and the more experiences I will have to look back on.

“I guess it is kind of building a toolbox so you can come back to when the pressure is on.”

Capsey begins 2024 in India with another edition of the WPL before she joins up with the England squad for the final two T20s of a five-match series in New Zealand.

It kickstarts an action-packed year of white-ball cricket, but the all-rounder’s Test ambitions still burn brightly.

“Everyone had a lot of conversations with the management staff and it was definitely a combined decision over what was best for the individual,” Capsey explained regarding her WPL participation.

“We have a World Cup in Bangladesh and looking even more to the future we have a 50-over World Cup next year in India and this is part and parcel of my development.

“I have targeted an area I want to work on, which is spin and it is another stepping stone in my development to spend a bit longer out here and pick the brains of the people who play spin the best.

“If individuals are getting better and learning how to play their best games in those conditions, it will benefit England as well.

“Having that aspiration to continue working really hard and that end goal to make my Test debut is definitely something at the forefront of my mind and something I’m working towards.”

Red Bull athlete Alice Capsey is an England and Delhi Capitals all-rounder. Find out more about her here.

Thursday’s meeting at Huntingdon has been called off due to a waterlogged track.

The venue was due to host a six-race National Hunt card but the course is not fit for action, with areas of standing water and further rain forecast ahead of the fixture.

Clerk of the course Roderick Duncan inspected the track on Tuesday morning and had little option but to abandon.

He said: “We flooded again on Sunday and while the water levels have dropped, there are still areas of standing water on various parts of the track.

“While the river levels are dropping, the forecast for more rain on Wednesday and Thursday is just not helpful.”

The British Horseracing Authority has already announced an additional meeting on Thursday at Chelmsford.

Anno Power has left Harry Fry full of excitement after booking her ticket to Aintree with a scintillating display at Ascot on Saturday.

Held in high regard by her trainer, the five-year-old suffered a narrow reversal at the hands of Ben Pauling’s Dunskay on her debut, but put the record straight in breathtaking fashion when sent off the 5-4 favourite for the British EBF Mares’ Open National Hunt Flat Race.

Having succumbed to keenness in her first outing, she was ridden cold by Jonathan Burke at Ascot and still had the whole field to pass before her jockey flicked the switch within the final two furlongs.

She quickened impressively, swallowing up her rivals one by one, before hitting full flow as she hit the line almost three lengths clear of the runner-up, the Karl Burke-trained Nala The Lioness.

Anno Power will now be held back for the Grade Two Goffs UK Nickel Coin Mares’ Standard Open National Hunt Flat Race on the opening day of Aintree’s Grand National Festival (April 11), a race won in the last two years by Ashroe Diamond (2022) and Dysart Enos (2023).

“We’re very excited with her and to be honest I was rather disappointed when she got beat the first day at Exeter,” said Fry.

“She over-raced a bit that day and was last off the bridle up against a horse of Ben Pauling’s who won again last week under a penalty and looks a useful young horse. It turned into a bit of a duel up the straight at Exeter, which didn’t play to our strengths but we learnt plenty about her.

“She was running against mares for the first time on Saturday and we knew first and foremost we needed to get her switched off to give herself a chance, hence why Johnny rode such a patient race.

“We were trying to teach her with the future in mind and she had to settle. If she was capable of what we think she is, then when he asked her turning in, we would be able to see if she could go and win the race – and the manner in which she did was hugely exciting.

“It was impressive to see her pass the field like she did and quicken and then keep quickening to the line and then gallop right through the line.

“I was delighted to see her take that next step forward and now we can go to Aintree for the Grade Two mares’ bumper on the opening day of the Grand National meeting. That would probably be that for this season and then she will be a nice novice hurdling prospect for next season.”

West Indies’ newly-minted star bowler, Guyanese Shamar Joseph and children in the east Berbice community of Baracara are set to benefit significantly from Guyana Telephone & Telegraph Co. Ltd. now that he has signed on to be the telecommunications provider’s brand ambassador, company officials said Friday.

GTT’s Chief Commercial Officer, Kerchelle Jn. Charles said, through the three-year agreement, Joseph would receive business mentorship and the children of Baracara, a community on the Canje River, would be supported in their sport and educational pursuits.

She said GTT would assist in supplying cricket gear to the students.

“We’ve seen the school, we understand the needs. We see them playing a lot of cricket so we want to help them with cricket gear, the students with school books, uniforms. You know, the necessities of schools we will support,” she said.

The GTT official said a business mentor would be assigned to the cricketer to support his ambition of becoming a businessman.

“We want to be able to help him with mentorship in business and in growth for him as a person so it’s very mutual. It’s not all about GTT. It’s a lot about Shamar as well,” she added.

The telecoms provider declined to disclose the value of the brand ambassador deal, only saying that the cricketer’s legal team and himself have approved it.

Joseph, who has hauled 13 test wickets from two Test matches, rose to international fame after he led the West Indies to its first test victory against Australia in 27 years with 7-68 in the second innings of the second Test in Brisbane in January.

Deputy Chief Executive Officer of GTT, Richard Stanton announced that, in conjunction with WANSAT, that high speed “quality internet solution” has been installed at Baracara.

“Shamar’s speed and accuracy with the cricket ball absolutely aligns with our values of being the fastest and the most reliable player in the game,” he said.

For his part, the West Indies pace bowler remarked that he has always been a GTT customer.

“From the moment that I started to use a phone, GTT was always my thing so I’m happy to be part of the family.”


Brian Ellison is set to make a late decision on the participation of ante-post favourite Anglers Crag in the Sky Sports Racing Sky 415 Eider Handicap Chase at Newcastle on Saturday.

The nine-year-old is unbeaten in three starts for the Malton handler since transferring from David Pipe in the autumn and brought up a hat-trick for his new training team with a decisive success at Musselburgh earlier this month.

Despite given an 11lb rise for that victory, he as short as 11-4 to extend his winning run in the Gosforth Park marathon at the weekend, with the final call on whether he takes his chance resting with owner Derrick Mossop.

“I’ve seen he’s favourite, but I don’t think a decision (on whether he runs) will be made until Thursday, I need to speak with the owner,” said Ellison.

“The horse is in great form and if he runs he will be in tip-top condition, I’m very happy with him.

“The handicapper didn’t miss him last time and put him up 11lb and I think he’s gone up around 20lb since I’ve had him.

“Ground will come into it (the decision to run) and he’s never been over four miles yet. He won over three-mile-two at Carlisle and he’s also won over three miles at Musselburgh so he’s showed he has a bit of speed and he can stay. If he was to stay four miles he would take all the beating, I would think.”

Ellison won the Eider with Sam’s Adventure in 2021 and the Tyneside native admitted he would love to get his hands on the prize for a second time, with his in-form stayer reported to be in rude health.

“We won it a couple of years ago which was good and it would be nice to win it again,” said Ellison.

“He’s in great form and if the owner wants to run him he will run, but if he doesn’t then I won’t run him.

“He’s been trained like he’s going to run and has never missed a beat since he won at Musselburgh. He worked on Saturday and Andrew Robinson who rides him all the time thinks he’s improved again, so everything is OK.”

Anglers Crag is one of 16 remaining in the hunt for the £80,000 contest after Monday’s confirmation stage, with Jamie Snowden’s Git Maker the one the bookmakers feel will give Ellison’s charge most to think about.

Last year’s runner-up The Galloping Bear is another notable name to stand his ground, alongside Sam England’s hat-trick-seeking Fenland Tiger and Seamus Mullins’ Tommie Beau who scored twice before having to settle for second in the Sussex National.

39Christopher Head has raised the possibility of Ramatuelle running in the Qipco 1000 Guineas, as connections seek to plot a mile campaign this summer.

Co-owned by former NBA star Tony Parker, Ramatuelle sports black and silver silks based on his former championship-winning team the San Antonio Spurs and made a serious impression on course at two.

The high-class daughter of Justify won three of her five appearances as a juvenile, including the Group Two Prix Robert Papin, before finishing her campaign going down by the barest of margins to star colt Vandeek in the Prix Morny.

Plans for Ramatuelle’s early-season target are still to be finalised and as well as a possible raid on Newmarket, she holds an entry for the Emirates Poule d’Essai des Pouliches the trainer won with Blue Rose Cen in 2023.

But Head will begin testing her Classic credentials at Deauville on April 9 and having seen dual Classic-winning filly Blue Rose Cen switched to Maurizio Guarnieri earlier this year, will be hoping Ramatuelle can fill the void and become another household name for his Chantilly operation.

He said: “Ramatuelle has been a tremendous filly for us as a two-year-old and we are now preparing her for pretty much the mile programme in France, but not only in France, in the UK too.

“We’re looking all over Europe to make the best programme for her as a three-year-old. It (Newmarket) is of course a possibility, but at the end of the day her owner will decide where she will run and of course there is a possibility she could go for that race.

“She’s going to go to the Prix Imprudence and then from there we will see where we go. To be a successful miler is the main objective this year.

“I think Ramatuelle is a really nice filly and Justify has proven he can sire very versatile horses. I’m very happy to have her at three and can’t wait to see what she is going to do for us in the mile races this year.”

Owners Yeguada Centurion may have switched Blue Rose Cen, but their Group One-winning colt Big Rock remains in Head’s care and is being geared up for another enterprising programme.

He was last seen recording a brilliant victory from the front in the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes on British Champions Day and his handler is excited by the possibility of returning to the UK in search of further riches during the 2024 season.

“Big Rock is brilliant and has done very well over the winter,” continued Head.

“He will have a nice programme in Europe and we will be able to come over to the UK again.

“I will speak with the owners before saying anything about where he is going to start, but don’t worry the horse is doing very well and we’re very happy with his training. We can’t wait to see him back on track.”

There will be no Cheltenham Festival for No Flies On Him despite Edward O’Grady taking plenty of positives from his second place behind Tullyhill at Punchestown on Sunday.

The JP McManus-owned five-year-old downed Grade One winner Jango Baie in his sole start in the pointing field and lit up Leopardstown at Christmas with a taking display on his rules debut.

That victory raised the possibility of a return to former glories for Killeens handler O’Grady, who is no stranger to success on the biggest stage of all.

No Flies On Him holds entries in both the Sky Bet Supreme Novices’ Hurdle and the Baring Bingham, but a trip to Prestbury Park will have to wait, with the promising youngster set to sit out proceedings in the Cotswolds this time around.

“He won’t go to Cheltenham,” said O’Grady. “He’s well and he came home and ate up and pulled out well this morning.

“Had he won then obviously I would have gone to Cheltenham and had no worries. But it might have been just a pretty big step (at Punchestown) and he might improve quite a bit from it.

“He’s a very gross horse and he blew quite a lot after his race and I think there is a nice bit of improvement in him.

“We’ll probably go to Fairyhouse and Punchestown – home soil and good ground. I’m sure he will have benefitted from the experience at Punchestown.”

No Flies On Him ultimately finished nine lengths adrift of the impressive Willie Mullins-trained winner when upped to Listed level for just his second appearance under rules.

However, O’Grady believes there was plenty of encouragement to take from his charge’s performance – especially the way he ran on to claw back second after making a mistake at the last.

He continued: “There were a number of positives and obviously you are always disappointed when you get beat, but maybe at this stage we were over estimating things and the winner put up a Grade One performance.

“My horse is only five and this was only his second start. He had never been off the bridle before in his life, so it was quite a shock to his system and something he handled quite well on reflection.

“He really wasn’t at home on the gluey ground and he did find that rather difficult – the day he ran at Leopardstown it was good ground.

“What we really liked about him was having made the mistake at the last hurdle, he ran on again.

“So there were a lot of positives to take from the run and he certainly hasn’t gone down in our estimations, but just maybe at this stage of his career it was maybe too big an ask under the circumstances.”

A step up in trip is now under consideration for connections who are confident they still have a horse with high-class potential in their care having conceded both age and experience to Tullyhill.

“We would have no worries about stepping him up in trip and whether he does that next time or the time after I don’t know, but we would have no worries doing so,” added O’Grady.

“It’s certainly under consideration and something I will discuss with JP, Frank (Berry, racing manager) and the jockey.

“The other horse (Tullyhill) was one of the top bumper horses last year and has the experience as well. He has a year on No Flies On Him and my horse is very, very green and Derek O’Connor is such a good jockey that when he ran in his point-to-point, he didn’t even know he had a race.

“When he ran at Leopardstown he barely came off the bridle, so there is tremendous room for improvement in racing technique and there’s not a lot we can do about that at home – it’s just something that will come from experience.”

Lorna Fowler intends to roll the dice and send Colonel Mustard to the Unibet Champion Hurdle after his second-placed Kingwell Hurdle run.

The nine-year-old has been consistently hitting the frame over both hurdles and fences in recent seasons, winning only twice in his career but placing second on nine occasions.

His CV includes a third place behind State Man in the 2022 County Hurdle and again in the Paddy Power Champion Hurdle at Punchestown last April.

At Wincanton he was reverting to hurdles at Grade Two level after a brief spell over fences before Christmas, and in a field of five he started at 5-1 under Daryl Jacob.

He was ridden patiently in heavy conditions and although he had ground to make up in the home straight, he did his level best and chased home Nemean Lion to go down by a length and a half with Goshen 15 lengths behind him in third place.

“We were so proud of him, that is undoubtedly the best he has ever finished in a race,” said Fowler.

“The horse that won is vastly improving, we missed at the second-last but we were gaining on him.

“All credit to the winner, of course, but I think he ran a huge race and although it is frustrating to come second again, if you look at the other side of the picture we have a horse that has run out of his skin for the last four years.

“He’s done it in the best company on I don’t know how many occasions, lest we forget how lucky we are to have him.

“He’s completely genuine, 100 per cent, but he’s always had a little look around him to see what everyone else is doing, whereas this time he really had his eye on the one in front and he put his head down and battled.”

Colonel Mustard has an entry for the Champion Hurdle and after his Wincanton run connections are keen to take on the challenge, especially given the chestnut has run some of his best races at the big meetings.

“We’re going to go for the Champion Hurdle, it’s not easy to find races for him to win,” said Fowler.

“How often do you have a chance to run in a Champion Hurdle?

“People are talking about the race cutting up and yes, it isn’t a winning opportunity on paper at all, but does he have a chance of getting a place? Absolutely.

“I’m not saying he will be placed, of course, but he does have a chance in my opinion and we have to take it.

“He is the kind of horse that just loves a big occasion, he does raise his game.

“At the end of the day, horse racing is unpredictable on every single level, we’ve got to get there but so does every other horse – Constitution Hill has got to get there, State Man has got to get there.

“You’re on a tightrope at all times and little things can happen and change the landscape, so you’ve got to take the opportunities that are staring you in the face.”

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