Walsh deserts Friend for Cooldine's comeback

If not even Denman seems likely to seduce Ruby Walsh from Kauto Star, then what kind of case must Cooldine make to their jockey in the Lexus Chase at Leopardstown today?

Cooldine was no less impressive in the RSA Chase than Denman in the same race two years previously, but he can expect a hostile reception from seasoned rivals when he makes a delayed comeback today.

Admittedly, Notre Pere disappointed when trying his luck against Kauto Star last time, and Voy Por Ustedes and In Compliance have yet to convince with their stamina. But Joncol has already cut the mustard in open company, while there is no more fascinating runner than What A Friend – last off the bridle when chasing home Denman at Newbury last month.

At least Cooldine can flatter himself that Walsh, committed to the champion trainers of both Britain and Ireland, has left What A Friend to Barry Geraghty. But Willie Mullins, his trainer, indicates that he will be satisfied with any performance that lays a solid foundation for Cooldine's season.

Aran Concerto seems too fragile to match his initial promise, but his stablemate Pandorama could yet become the Gold Cup horse Noel Meade has craved so long. Meade has long suspected that three miles will be the making of Pandorama, and he should find out in the Knight Frank Novice Chase.

Meade came up with a 25-1 shocker at yesterday's meeting when Hollo Ladies won the Paddy Power Future Champion Novices' Hurdle. His cause was greatly aided by poor runs from both Some Present and Sweeps Hill, perhaps worn out by their recent pursuit of Dunguib, but at least Hollo Ladies showed plenty of mettle in wearing down Saludos by a neck under Davy Condon. "I bet you all thought I was mad running him," Meade said. "But I knew he was tough, and that if it came down to a dogfight then he would keep finding."

The trainer added that Go Native is likely to go straight to the Smurfit Champion Hurdle after his success at Kempton on Boxing Day – as well he might, with a £1m bonus from the betting exchange WBX to concentrate the mind.

The other Grade One race on the Leopardstown card, a chase in the same sponsorship over two miles, went to Golden Silver and Paul Townend in the Cooldine colours. This horse has so far been making his improvement under the radar but was always going better than Tranquil Sea – himself conspicuously on the upgrade, judged on his previous performance at Cheltenham – and saw off his challenge by three and a half lengths.

"I think he's improving, and he idles in front," Mullins said. "He will certainly have an entry in the Champion Chase."

Turf Account: Chris McGrath

*NAP

Mistress To No One (1.35 Chepstow)

Much improved on her first start for this stable and could still be ahead of the handicapper.

*NEXT BEST

Gone To Lunch (2.10 Chepstow)

Ideally suited by a slog like this and produced a nice rehearsal when plugging on for fifth in the Hennessy.

*ONE TO WATCH

Grey Soldier (Gordon Elliott), a Listed winner on the Flat, made a promising start to his hurdling career at Leopardstown yesterday, keeping on doughtily for second.

*WHERE THE MONEY'S GOING

After another accomplished exhibition at Kempton yesterday, Riverside Theatre is 10-1 from 14-1 with Sky Bet for the Irish Independent Arkle Trophy.

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