All the machinations concerning the booking of a rider for Commanche Court, the favourite for tomorrow's Ladbroke Hurdle at Leopardstown, came to naught yesterday. Ted Walsh's Triumph Hurdle winner looked poorly on the gallops and performed similarly and will not now run in the valuable handicap.
"Commanche Court didn't fire this morning," Walsh said. "His rider, Stephen Nolan, said he was just a bit flat and I didn't think he went particularly well so he doesn't run.
"I've seen horses that have worked well and run bad but I've never seen one that worked bad and ran well. It's disappointing but there was no agonising about it and I took the decision straight away. The Tote Gold Trophy is five weeks away and we will see how he is in a week to 10 days' time and take it from there. He doesn't appear to be suffering from anything and he had been 100 per cent before today."
Charlie Swan, the Irish champion, may, however, be suffering from acute embarrassment. He had begged off an appointment on one of Aidan O'Brien's horses to secure the mount on Commanche Court and now has to return having used up brownie points fruitlessly. "That's racehorses for you," Swan said. "More than likely I will now ride Toast The Spreece ahead of Theatreworld. That one was second in the Champion Hurdle but it will be hard to win the Ladbroke off 12st."
The new favourite is Graphic Equaliser, who is in the stewardship of the Ladbroke specialist Arthur Moore. The trainer also has the fancied Major Jamie in the race.
The prospect of a British winner is now a rather meagre 9-4 shot with Coral (from 4-1). Top Cees is the most fancied of the travellers and it may be that his trainer is confidently spending the proceeds before the gelding has broken sweat. Lynda Ramsden will listen to how Top Cees progresses on a line from South Africa.
Nicky Henderson's Sharpical is at short odds for an animal not guaranteed to act on the terrible ground, but there is a measure of stable confidence behind Tibetan, for whom Lady Herries booked Peter Niven yesterday. "It's disappointing not to get Richard Dunwoody and I just hope Sandown doesn't get called off now," she said. "But even if it does I will stick with Peter. Tibetan is very well and ran a very, very good race at Kempton. I am never confident, but I am hopeful."
Moorish, the mount of Tom Jenks, will be a first Leopardstown runner for in-form Nigel Twiston-Davies. Those at Grange Hill Farm considered their runner to be so well that they expected him to give weight to Princeful at Cheltenham on New Year's Day. Although that was beyond him Moorish did finish 14 lengths clear of the third and the good vibes remain. "He is in very good form and I was very pleased with him last time," Twiston- Davies said yesterday. "He will probably struggle but if you don't run you don't know."
Even the winner is likely to struggle tomorrow. The ground has turned to gruel at Leopardstown and the likelihood is that the chases on the card will be abandoned. Fresh ground has been set aside for the big one, though, and officials remain confident it will go ahead.
Horse C H L T
Graphic Equaliser 5-1 9-2 9-2 4-1
Sharpical 8-1 10-1 10-1 8-1
Top Cees 10-1 9-1 8-1 8-1
Arctic Weather 11-1 10-1 11-1 10-1
Major Jamie 11-1 12-1 12-1 10-1
Tibetan 12-1 12-1 11-1 10-1
Hard News 12-1 14-1 12-1 10-1
Metastasio 14-1 16-1 16-1 16-1
Toast The Spreece 14-1 16-1 16-1 16-1
Each-way a quarter the odds, places 1, 2, 3, 4
C - Coral, H - William Hill, L - Ladbrokes, T - ToteReuse content