Racing: O'Brien ready to play French ace

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The Independent Online
LE COUDRAY, who won five races in France before being bought by J P McManus, makes his debut for Aidan O'Brien in the Bank of Ireland Hurdle at Naas on Sunday. Held in high regard, Le Coudray is entered in the Stayers' Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival for which he is a top- priced 10-1 with William Hill.

"Le Coudray is very well and I expect him to run a big race on Sunday," O'Brien said.

Another horse more familiar to French racegoers, Ruggiero, is to tackle the Pillar Properties Chase at Cheltenham tomorrow. Thierry Civel's eight- year-old, the winner of his latest start at Cagnes sur Mer two weeks ago, is due to school with some of David Nicholson's string at Jackdaws Castle today.

Ruggiero faces a tough task tomorrow against See More Business, Cyfor Malta and Escartefigue. He is following in the hoofprints of the Francois Rohaut-trained Arenice, who was fifth in the race in 1995.