Danoli climbs back to his peak

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The Independent Online
An inspection this morning will determine whether Ireland's unlikely champion completes his Cheltenham preparation in the unlikely setting of Gowran Park tomorrow.

If officials at the Co Kilkenny course give the meeting clearance, Danoli, last year's Sun Alliance Novices' Hurdle winner at the Festival, will compete in the Red Mills Trial Hurdle.

Tom Carroll, the Gowran Park manager, said yesterday: "The course was raceable yesterday and there has been no change from that. It won't be an official inspection but I'll be looking at the course tomorrow morning. I'm reasonably hopeful that if there is not too much rain we should be able to race." (In a later update, according to a course spokeswoman, Gowran Park was affected by an unusual phenomenon for Ireland, "unexpected rain").

If tomorrow's card is called off it will be restaged on Wednesday, when Danoli will also be in attendance, an offer to run in Wincanton's Kingwell Hurdle the following day having already been turned down.

Danoli has been the subject of sustained support over the last two weeks and was cut yet again (from 5-1 to 4-1) by Ladbrokes yesterday. Tom Foley, the seven-year-old's trainer, observes that his horse has recovered from the cough which brought about his defeat at the hands of Dorans Pride at the end of last year.

Foley, who has trained Danoli from obscurity to champion class out of a box made from corrugated iron and breeze blocks, once again used Jim Bolger's gallops to prepare his representative this week. The way the gelding worked up the steep all-weather at Coolcullen (where crampons are almost as much use as horseshoes) convinced Foley that all was returning to normality.

"It didn't take him long to get over that cough," he said yesterday. "He'll have his final piece of work this morning and then I'll keep him ticking over. There is no problem with him at the moment and he's got through a good lot of work. I'm quite happy.

"If I'd known the Irish Champion was going to be run at Fairyhouse he would have been ready in time. He would not have run at Leopardstown because I'm not in love with that course. It suits Flat horses and Danoli's races there seem to turn into cat and mouse affairs."

Danoli's revival has further prompted thoughts that Ireland may win their first Champion Hurdle for 12 years next month. On the bridge into the 1980s, horses from across the Irish Sea won four from seven runnings, but there has been no success since Dawn Run's in 1984. Numerically, this appears an outstanding season with the travellers supplying half of the first eight in the betting.

If they do not succeed, one thing is certain. The disappointed visiting spectators will not be tempted to vent their feelings with a riot on the turf of Prestbury Park.

CHAMPION HURDLE (Cheltenham, 14 March): Ladbrokes: 7-2 Relkeel, 4-1 Danoli, Fortune & Fame & Large Action, 10-1 Mysilv, 12-1 Atours, Montelado & Vintage Crop; William Hill: 7-2 Relkeel, 9-2 Fortune & Fame & Large Action, 5- 1 Danoli, 9-1 Mysilv, 10-1 Montelado, 14-1 Atours, 16-1 Vintage Crop.

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