Racing: Danoli proud behind Pride

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The Independent Online
TWO OLD adversaries met in Ireland yesterday and two went away delighted. Michael Hourigan and Tom Foley have been great enemies, at least in the media and almost as much personally, since their great horses Dorans Pride and Danoli started rutting in the public amphitheatre.

Dorans Pride impressively won the inaugural Kilkenny Champion Chase at Gowran Park yesterday, but there was as much glee surrounding Danoli's connections following the gelding's third place on returning from an injury that he sustained in the 1997 Gold Cup. Both trainers, however, were prepared just to savour the single moment.

"He will come on a lot from this win," Hourigan said of Dorans Pride. "I am looking next at the Morris Oil Chase at Clonmel and then we might go to Punchestown. But I'm not prepared to think beyond that."

Foley's plans do not even stretch that far. "Danoli seems fine now and I hope he comes out of it okay in the next day or two," he said. "But we won't be tempting fate by making any plans for his next outing yet."

Danoli's form had read 1F1F1F/ and the suggestion has always been if, if, if, he had not damaged himself at Aintree what seems all those years ago then what sort of combatant would he be these days. Foley may have sent jockeys out with the instruction to give his gelding an easy on several occasions but this is not a culture the horse himself understands.

Danoli is a gladiatorial horse, like another famous Irish beast before him, Dawn Run, and his greatest strength is that he considers another animal heading him as a personal rubbishing. It is to be hoped that this attitude does not take him down the same dark alley as the mare.

The early antagonism between Foley and Hourigan was ripe, but the two men have come to realise there is more to the sport than the trumpeting of their respective champions. Hourigan has lost a jockey, the stricken Shane Broderick, along the way, and Foley, as much as anyone, does not know if Danoli can become the mighty force he was before. The combat is more friendly these days, though Danoli's trainer still believes his horse can return to the highest order and do proper battle once again with his old opponent.

The rather grandly named Champion Chase hardly deviated from what we might have expected yesterday. The old yardstick of Merry Gale, blinkered for the first time, was in the lead for much of the way, with Conor O'Dwyer tall in the saddle and emphasising the height of the 10-year-old. Danoli initially ran second before Dorans Pride took that position, but Danoli lost places from there as much as he enjoys giving up teeth.

Hill Society, just out of the novice stage which saw him finish a desperately close second to Champleve in the Arkle Chase at the Cheltenham Festival, looked ominous for a moment, but we soon discovered he is still taking exams for Dorans Pride's class. The nine-year-old ran away in the closing stages, much the same as he always has done on his seasonal debuts, and he must, once again, be a fearsome obstacle for Britain's top chasers to overcome at Prestbury Park in March. He is low as 10-1 with Ladbrokes for chasing's crown.

Dorans Pride will at least have no competition to face from one of his Cheltenham conquerors earlier this season as Strong Promise, the runner- up to Cool Dawn, will not be a figure on the racecourse this jumping season. The seven-year-old has been under the blade recently to correct a long- standing injury and will take the rest of the campaign off.

The potential rivals, however, are already piling up. See More Business, the King George VI Chase winner, is said to be throbbing with vitality and ready to atone for the Gold Cup moment last year when he was carried out. He restarts next month. And then there are the Sun Alliance Chase stars of 1998, Florida Pearl and Escartefigue to introduce into the equation.

Before they begin their roads to the top a former champion is ready to put forward his claims. Imperial Call, now under the stewardship of Raymond Hurley, runs at Limerick on Sunday.

There may be Champions Day and the Breeders' Cup to come, but already Flat horses will be able to glance an entirely new cast in the wings waiting to supplant them.

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