Racing: Florida warms up to turn heat on rivals

WILLIE MULLINS, the trainer of the Cheltenham Gold Cup favourite, Florida Pearl, yesterday had some ominous words for his rivals as he prepares the gelding for his first run of the season in the Ericsson Chase at Leopardstown on 28 December.

"He is more forward now than he was at this time last year," Mullins said. "He recently had a schooling hurdle at Punchestown and he looked really good. I know he is going to have no cake-walk in the Ericsson for I understand Suny Bay will be running.

"But we have to expect to take on top-class horses if we want to beat them and eventually win the Gold Cup.

"Florida Bay can't afford to need the Leopardstown race for we want to win. Apart from Suny Bay there are a number of other good horses likely to run so it will be a real test and I am looking forward to it."

Another likely challenger to last season's Royal & Sunalliance Novices' Chase winner could be Dorans Pride, who was disappointing when second to Imperial Call in the John Durkan Memorial Chase at Punchestown last Sunday.

Plans for Imperial Call are also fluid. "I still have the King George VI Chase at Kempton on Boxing Day in mind for him as he is the only Irish entry," his trainer, Raymond Hurley, said. "At the same time I would like to run at Leopardstown and I won't make a decision until Friday at the earliest."

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