LAST SEASON’S CORAL CUP winner Spirit River will not compete at this year’s festival according to trainer Nicky Henderson.
The six-year-old had been pencilled in for the 3m World Hurdle, traditionally the feature race on the Thursday of the festival. Bookmakers were quoting prices as low as 25/1 before his withdrawal was announced this morning.
The decision to withdraw the horse was taken after a disappointing start to the season, falling on his chasing debut at Newbury in November and again at Cheltenham two weeks later.
He also looked very out of sorts on his return to hurdles two weeks ago, managing only a twelfth-place finish in the Grade 2 Cleeve Hurdle at Cheltenham.
Speaking to the Racing Post this morning, Henderson revealed the thoughts behind his decision, recognising that “he’s a chaser in the making and there is no point in losing your novice status at this time of year.
Spirit River was 14/1 shot in last year’s Coral Cup, a 2m5f handicap hurdle, when steered home by Barry Geraghty at the head of a 28-horse field.
Meanwhile, there have been a number of changes to the line-up ahead of Saturday’s rescheduled Hennessey Gold Cup at Leopardstown.
Bookies’ favourite Pride of Dulcote has been withdrawn by trainer Paul Nicholls who clearly feels that another trip to Ireland is unfeasible considering that the horse’s principal target, the Cheltenham Gold Cup, is now just over five weeks away.
Nicholls may opt to give pride of Pride of Dulcote one last pre-Cheltenham outing closer to home, and he is expected to figure in Ascot’s Betfair Chase on Saturday week instead.
Meanwhile, speaking to At The Races this morning, Kilkenny-based trainer Eoin Griffin hinted that he is still undecided as to whether Cheltenham prospect Glencove Marina will run in the rescheduled race.
The ground looks like being heavy and I’m in two minds whether to run him or not. [The rescheduled Red Mills Chase at] Gowran the following week is getting a bit too close to Cheltenham.
We had hoped to run him in the Ryanair [at Cheltenham], but it would be very hard to go there on the back of the Thurles run.
Hennessey Gold Cup odds: Joncol 7/4; Cooldine 7/2; Money Trix 9/2; Kempes 7/1; 10/1 bar