Racing: Irish Beef backed to taste victory

Pundits look to Leopardstown for Festival tips after Newbury falls victim to frost

The Cheltenham Festival roadshow rolls on to Leopardstown this afternoon, and after its stop-start progress round Britain - Newbury yesterday became the second high-profile trials meeting to be abandoned in three Saturdays - it seems that Irish-trained horses will have at least one advantage at Prestbury Park next month, that of match practice.

The home side's trainers are running out of time for preps before the four-day extravaganza, with its £2.87 million in prize money, starts four weeks on Tuesday. One of those thwarted in Berkshire yesterday was Philip Hobbs, whose charge Monkerhostin, the Gold Cup joint-favourite, was denied a run in the Aon Chase.

The Newbury officials gave the frozen track every chance to thaw; it was only after the fourth inspection, at 1pm, that the white flag was hoisted. By then, a weak winter sun had appeared but not soon enough and the ground remained, in the opinion of Timmy Murphy and other jockeys who helped assess conditions, dangerously slippery in places.

The decision did not find favour with Hobbs. "I walked the course and I can't believe they called it off, it's a crazy decision," he said bluntly. "Everyone had the option to take their horses out if they felt there was any risk involved."

Monkerhostin's last-chance saloon may be a Grade One contest at Lingfield on Saturday over two-and-a-half miles, but with rain forecast this week a more likely scenario is that the fast-ground specialist will not be seen before the big day. "I will enter him at Lingfield, but I suspect he will now go straight for the Gold Cup," said his Minehead-based handler.

This afternoon in Co Dublin the other Gold Cup favourite, Beef Or Salmon, faces the Grand National winner Hedgehunter in the Hennessy Gold Cup and, over his favourite course and distance, will be short odds to prevail. The 10-year-old has won seven Grade One races and his trainer, Michael Hourigan, is hoping for an eighth. "He is in very good form, this race fits in nicely before Cheltenham and we are looking for a victory," he said. Beef Or Salmon has run unsuccessfully in the past three Gold Cups, but his supporters can take heart from The Dikler and The Fellow, both winners of the Blue Riband at their fourth attempts.

Hedgehunter finished fourth to Beef Or Salmon in the Lexus Chase at Leopardstown in December, his first run over fences since his Aintree success, and has 17 lengths to make up. His performance today will dec-ide whether he can bridge the class gap and take his chance in the Gold Cup. "This race has been his target since the National," said his trainer, Willie Mullins, "and we'll make a decision about Cheltenham afterwards. But he has improved for his last run and I hope he can get closer."

There is an early inspection before today's racing at Hereford, but no problems are envisaged at Exeter, where the exciting novice chaser Racing Demon makes his long-awaited first appearance since winning a Grade Two at Sandown in early December. The Henrietta Knight-trained six-year-old, who has the Arkle Trophy as his Cheltenham target, faces 10 rivals, chief among them Cornish Sett.

At Lingfield yesterday, the jockey Shane Kelly, who had been in sparkling form since returning two weeks ago from three months off because of injury, suffered a reverse when given a 28-day ban. Kelly was caught in the last stride and beaten a short-head on the 1-2 favourite Just Logic in a division of the mile maiden, and the stewards considered that he had eased off prematurely, allowing Lake Shabla to snatch victory.

BETS OF THE DAY

Serious bet
Its A Dream (5.0 Exeter) can win again after a good effort on too-tacky ground against a top-class rival.

Fun bet
Each-way punters could find a mate in Buddhi in the same race (5.0 Exeter)

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Books should be for everyone, says Els, 8. Publisher Scholastic now agrees
booksAn eight-year-old saw a pirate book was ‘for boys’ and took on the publishers
Life and Style
Mary Beard received abuse after speaking positively on 'Question Time' about immigrant workers: 'When people say ridiculous, untrue and hurtful things, then I think you should call them out'
tech
Life and Style
Most mail-order brides are thought to come from Thailand, the Philippines and Romania
life
News
i100
Life and Style
tech
Voices
Margaret Thatcher, with her director of publicity Sir Gordon Reece, who helped her and the Tory Party to victory in 1979
voicesThe subject is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for former PR man DJ Taylor
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Installation and Service / Security Engineer

£22000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is part of a Group...

Recruitment Genius: Service Charge Accounts Assistant

£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you a a young, dynamic pers...

Cancer Research UK: Corporate Partnerships Volunteer Events Coordinator – London

Voluntary: Cancer Research UK: We’re looking for someone to support our award ...

Ashdown Group: Head of IT - Hertfordshire - £90,000

£70000 - £90000 per annum + bonus + car allowance + benefits: Ashdown Group: H...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence
Public relations as 'art'? Surely not

Confessions of a former PR man

The 'art' of public relations is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef succumbs to his sugar cravings with super-luxurious sweet treats

Bill Granger's luxurious sweet treats

Our chef loves to stop for 30 minutes to catch up on the day's gossip, while nibbling on something sweet
London Marathon 2015: Paula Radcliffe and the mother of all goodbyes

The mother of all goodbyes

Paula Radcliffe's farewell to the London Marathon will be a family affair
Everton vs Manchester United: Steven Naismith demands 'better' if Toffees are to upset the odds against United

Steven Naismith: 'We know we must do better'

The Everton forward explains the reasons behind club's decline this season
Arsenal vs Chelsea: Praise to Arsene Wenger for having the courage of his convictions

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Praise to Wenger for having the courage of his convictions