Racing: Al Eile mobilised for Irish raid on Sandown

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The Independent Online

The so-called great British hurdling hope against the Irish hordes, the Jonjo O'Neill-trained, J P McManus-owned, AP McCoy-ridden, but Gloucestershire-trained Lingo, has succumbed to sickness and has left Boxing Day's Christmas Hurdle at the raiders' mercy.

Harchibald, last year's victor, is likely to lead the pursuit, but he has an alternative in the December Festival Hurdle at Leopardstown. However, with only nine initial entries received, John Queally has added Al Eile to the reopened field.

The five-year-old captured the notable scalp of Inglis Drever in his last run over timber in the Aintree Hurdle in April.

The Co Waterford trainer had planned to delay Al Eile's return until Haydock next month, but has had a rethink with the reopening of the Sandown race.

"There's a good chance we'll travel to Sandown, but we'll decide after he works on Friday," Queally said. "I hope Timmy [Murphy] will be able to ride him if we run.

"We didn't intend running him until the Champion Hurdle Trial on 21 January, but he's come round quicker then we expected. He ran at Royal Ascot at York so he was a bit late going out, but we're ready to roll again."

Intersky Falcon will now represent O'Neill at Kempton. "Lingo's blood picture wasn't as good as Jonjo would have liked," Frank Berry, McManus's racing manager, said, "so he is giving him a bit more time. It's nothing too serious."

Tony Dobbin has landed the plum ride on Kingscliff in the King George VI Chase. The 33-year-old replaces Robert Walford, ruled out with a broken collar-bone.

"It is a great spare to get, although it is very unfortunate for Robert," Dobbin said. "I've ridden in Kingscliff's last two races and at Wetherby he did look a bit burly. At Haydock, he looked a totally different horse, he looked much fitter, which he proved when he won."

Dobbin gets the ride ahead of Kingscliff's previous partner, Andrew Thornton, who said: "Robert Alner [the trainer] was right behind me, but I have spoken to the owner [Arnie Sendell] who does not feel I'm the right man for the job."

Kingscliff is the 9-4 second favourite behind Kicking King to go one better than last year.

Tony McCoy looks likely to be aboard the Henrietta Knight-trained Impek after getting the nod over Timmy Murphy from owner Jim Lewis. "AP will ride unless JP McManus requires him elsewhere," Lewis said. "JP has always been co-operative and I'm sure if it's possible he won't be making any objections. It wasn't an easy decision, but Tony has ridden some top races for me including the Queen Mother and two King Georges.

"My late wife, Valerie, and AP were great friends which maybe people didn't realise. He sent her some orchids just before she died which we've still got here, so I think it's proper Tony should be asked to ride."