Racing: Schooling test for Grey Abbey?s Gold aim

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The Independent Online

Two vital pieces of information toward finding the Gold Cup winner should be revealed today. Tom Taaffe is to announce whether his Kicking King has recovered sufficiently from a mucky throat to take his place in the line-up a week today and Grey Abbey is to be schooled after racing at Carlisle.

Two vital pieces of information toward finding the Gold Cup winner should be revealed today. Tom Taaffe is to announce whether his Kicking King has recovered sufficiently from a mucky throat to take his place in the line-up a week today and Grey Abbey is to be schooled after racing at Carlisle.

The Howard Johnson-trained 11-year-old has been a doubt for the Blue Riband since knocking a joint following his win in the Pillar Property Chase at Cheltenham in January. However, connections have reported his near-fore to be improving and the grey will put his injured leg to the test today. If Grey Abbey and Kicking King are declared fit for games the pace of the two front-runners is sure to change the nature of the race.

In addition to Grey Abbey, Johnson plans to work three others at the Cumbrian track, including recent acquisition Backbeat, who is entered in the Royal & SunAlliance Chase and Jewson Novices' Chase at the Festival. As well as the former David Elsworth inmate, Valley Henry will school over fences ahead of his crack at the Festival Trophy or Mildmay of Flete Chase, while Ballybough Rasher will also make an appearance. The latter, who landed the 2003 Charlie Hall Chase, is entered in both the Festival Trophy and the William Hill Trophy next week.

Johnson's main patron, Graham Wylie, is amassing a strong team for the Festival but final running plans will be left until the last minute. Inglis Drever is entered in both the Champion Hurdle and the World Hurdle and Wylie said: "I spoke to Howard last night about Inglis Drever and he hadn't made his mind up which race to go for.

"He will be left in the Champion because it would be a shame to take him out and for it to absolutely pour down.

"I hope to have one runner a day. Bewleys Berry will go for the three-mile novices' hurdle but we're going to keep Mephisto and No Refuge in case something happens over the weekend.

Certainly out of the meeting is Tom George's Lord Of Illusion after failing to please the trainer in a spin yesterday. The eight-year-old was low as 6-1 for the Royal & SunAlliance Chase after notching a hat-trick.

The Colin Tinkler-trained Oscar Park has been ruled out of the Champion Bumper after suffering a setback. The six-year-old had been 12-1 after winning at Windsor and Warwick.

Innox will also miss the Festival and go straight for the Grand National after having been bought by J P McManus. The nine-year-old will remain with François Doumen.

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