Foley switches schedules to keep Danoli on Festival track

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Danoli goes into battle tomorrow in the Red Mills Trial Hurdle at Gowran Park on the back of a different preparation. The spirit of Ireland has been handled like a butterfly since fracturing a cannon bone at Liverpool last year and connections hope his new regime will be enough to restore to him the force of old.

The eight-year-old has been stepped up gradually since his racecourse comeback at Leopardstown last month, when he created a shock enough to drain the National Grid. That day he was thought just about sufficiently fit to complete two circuits of the parade ring without getting a stitch, yet he still finished third to Collier Bay and Hotel Minella in the Irish Champion Hurdle, and could well have captured the spoils in another 50 yards.

Following that venture Danoli could have been excused several days rest and relaxation. But it transpired he just suffered the problems of any other participant returning after a lay-off, the sort of strains the pub bore feels after his sponsored walk. Indeed, the gelding exhibited the sort of keenness all management would like to get out of their employees on his return.

"We thought that race would take a lot more out of him than it did," Tom Foley, Danoli's trainer, said yesterday. "We intended giving him the whole week off, but on the Wednesday we had to ride him out because he started going mad. He was telling me he wanted to go out and do some work.''

But while Danoli's enthusiasm may have been laudable, Foley had to tailor a programme for an animal who, at one stage, was in danger of losing his life and was then diagnosed as being little more use than a farmyard pet. "With every horse you're worried about them after every gallop but with one that's had an injury like this one you always feel a lot happier when he's back home and in the box," Foley said. "We're easier on him these days because with the injury we can't do some of the things we used to do with him. We don't do as much hill stuff or fast sprint work with him. We're back to normal work when he just quickens up at the end.''

The good burghers of Cheltenham are aching more than most for a positive performance from Danoli tomorrow. If he delivers it will be the attractive equivalent of prospectors finding great seams of gold in Cleeve Hill. Foley knows that his charge has support on both sides of the Irish Sea.

"We're looking forward to Saturday even though the ground is not going to be too obliging," he said. "It will be testing. When there's just the mark of a shoe that's the best ground for him. We'd hope he'd win but we don't want to give him too hard a race. I'm looking forward to Saturday because he'll be leaving himself right for Cheltenham.''

A decision on whether Fortune And Fame would swell the Irish challenge in the Champion Hurdle was still on hold yesterday evening. Dermot Weld supervised the injury-prone gelding's morning work and was waiting to see if Fortune And Fame suffered any reaction.

Right Win's participation in the hurdling championship will be decided next week when he tackles Alderbrook and Atours in the Kingwell Hurdle at Wincanton. "If he doesn't perform well at Wincanton then we'll forget about the Champion Hurdle," Richard Hannon, Right Win's trainer, said.

Right Win's travelling companion to the West country will be another accomplished Flat performer, Alriffa. The five-year-old is being aimed at a maiden hurdle, which will determine if he, too, is worthy of a place in the Champion Hurdle line-up.