Call kept under wraps

Ireland will have to wait to see if Imperial Call has retained his old magic as the Gold Cup winner was yesterday pulled out of Saturday's Ericsson Chase at Leopardstown.

The seven-year-old's trainer, Fergie Sutherland, said his stable star had not recovered fully from a fall at the final fence when he looked set to win on his seasonal debut at Punchestown earlier this month.

"He suffered some bad bruises at Punchestown. The superficial injuries have cleared up but he is still bruised," Sutherland said.

Imperial Call, a warm favourite to retain the Gold Cup in March, is now expected to have his pre-Cheltenham run in the Hennessy Gold Cup at Leopardstown in February.

The Christmas meeting will be headlined instead by Danoli, who will be out today to repair some of the damage done to his reputation by a fall at Fairyhouse at the start of the month. Tom Foley, Danoli's trainer, is confident that he has the horse in the right frame of mind and he will need to be if he is to repel the challenges of Jeffell, The Carrig Rua and England's Land Afar in the Denny Gold Medal Chase.

"As far as I am concerned the most important thing is that Danoli jumps well. If we get beaten, even beaten a long way, and he jumps well I'll be happy enough." Foley said. "We've got plenty of schooling into him since he fell at Fairyhouse and he jumped really well when we took him to Gowran Park on Friday. He's really well in himself."

Another of Ireland's Cheltenham heroes, Klairon Davis, faces 11 rivals in the McCain Handicap Chase tomorrow. The winner of the Queen Mother Champion Chase will have most to fear from the highly-rated Merry Gale.

On Saturday, in Imperial Call's absence, Dorans Pride could emerge as a serious challenger for the Gold Cup. The former champion stayers' hurdler was extremely impressive when beating Paul Nicholls' See More Business to win the Drinmore Chase at Fairyhouse, the same race in which Danoli was a faller.

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