Cheltenham tilt not guaranteed for Gaoth Chuil

By Sports Desk February 08, 2024

Plans for Gaoth Chuil are still to be finalised after Ted Walsh’s consistent mare continued her fine campaign when finishing second at the Dublin Racing Festival.

The six-year-old, whose name translates to tailwind in English, has proven a progressive performer this term and after two placed efforts over two and a half miles, relished the step up in trip at Christmas when striking at Leopardstown in a Pertemps qualifier.

She looked poised to add to her tally in the Irish capital last weekend when fighting out the finish of the valuable Listed handicap with Maxxum, but eventually went down fighting by less than a length to her game rival.

Walsh said: “She’s a good, sound filly, a nice little filly who does everything well. She tries her heart and soul out and is probably getting to the limit of what she can do now after crawling up the handicap, but she has had a good year.

“It would have been nice if she had won the other day, it was a big pot, but she ran nicely to be second.”

Gaoth Chuil is currently disputing favouritism for the Pertemps at the Cheltenham Festival, but despite being delighted with his charge’s efforts this term, Walsh is hesitant to commit the mare to Prestbury Park, pointing out there are other options which may appeal to owner Michael Ryan.

On Cheltenham, Walsh added: “It will all depend, it’s four or five weeks away and I’ll see what the race is looking like.

“If everything was suitable, she might, but Michael Ryan likes Liverpool, he’s had a lot of luck there over the years with Al Eile, who won four times there.

“If he feels like he wants to go to Cheltenham, we will go to Cheltenham – and if not, we will go to Liverpool. She could even stay at home for Fairyhouse and Punchestown, there’s no set idea yet.

“She’s good enough to run respectably at Cheltenham, but whether she is good enough to win it, there is a question mark.”

Gaoth Chuil may end up at Aintree in the spring, but one horse not making the trip to Merseyside this year is Grand National regular Any Second Now.

Third to Minella Times in 2021, he returned to finish second to Noble Yeats 12 months later. However, his third crack at the world’s most famous steeplechase saw the veteran pulled up early into the second circuit, with Walsh feeling he has now seen enough of the famous spruce.

“He ran disappointing in it last year and looked like he had maybe been there once too often,” continued Walsh.

“He’s 12 and not favourably treated in the handicap in England, so there are a whole lot of reasons and when you add them all together, he hasn’t shown a lot in his two runs so far this year and we decided not to go for the English National.

“He had a 10 or 11lb higher handicap mark in England when I entered him in Warwick. He can’t perform well off the mark he has here at the moment, so it is asking a big question to perform off such a figure in Liverpool when he was disappointing there last year.”

Any Second Now will now be campaigned closer to home, with Easter Monday’s Irish Grand National at Fairyhouse on the radar if returning to near his best over the coming months.

Walsh added: “Fairyhouse is on the Monday, 10 or 12 days before the English Grand National, so we decided maybe if he showed a bit of spark between now and Fairyhouse, he might run in the Irish National.

“If he is to run in one (a National), Fairyhouse seems to be the one, but it is a big if, he will need to be running better than he is at the moment.

“He might run at Punchestown in the National Trial (on February 18) and he will run a few times between now and Fairyhouse – he won’t go unless he has a good run somewhere.

“He wants to be competitive in some of those races and he won’t be going to make up the numbers; if he goes to Punchestown, or maybe the Leinster National at Naas, I would like to see him do something on track in one of them before I place him in any National.”

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