All of a sudden, two of the most accomplished steeplechasers in Ireland must demonstrate that they can withstand a British mutiny. Kauto Star is now hot favourite to prise the Totesport Cheltenham Gold Cup away from War Of Attrition, but the latter continues to prepare his defence when he meets Beef Or Salmon in today's Lexus Chase at Leopardstown.
They have already had a good scrap this season, at Down Royal in November, though both have been beaten since - Beef Or Salmon by Kauto Star at Haydock, and War Of Attrition by In Compliance at Punchestown. Home soil and wet soil both conspire in Beef Or Salmon's favour, of course, as they did at Down Royal and indeed when he won this prize for a third time last year.
Certainly Mouse Morris seems determined to save War Of Attrition's peak for March. "He won't have a slog tomorrow," the trainer said yesterday. "If he wins it will be great, but he won't be flogged to win. He just doesn't jump out of the sticky ground as well. The feature of his Cheltenham win was his brilliant jumping, it's his strong point."
The big race on the second day of the meeting fell to Nickname, disappointing behind In Compliance and War Of Attrition last time, but back to his best in the Paddy Power Dial-A-Bet Chase.