Hourigan delighted with Beef Or Salmon ahead of Gold Cup

Pat Keane

Speaking from Shannon Airport yesterday, shortly before boarding a plane for Prestbury Park, Hourigan said: “I am very pleased with my horse, he is like you and me at the moment, he's happy out!”

The nine-year-old arrived at Cheltenham on Tuesday and has settled in really well. “He went by boat from Dublin”, said Hourigan.

“My daughter, Kay, and two more of my staff are with him. He went on my own lorry and we sent King Carew as well, just for company.

“Kay is thrilled with the horse. She said he travelled great and ate up.”

Beef Or Salmon has been under a cloud since going down by 14 lengths to Rule Supreme in the Hennessy Cognac Gold Cup at Leopardstown last month.

He scoped badly subsequently and was on the easy-list for some days. But Hourigan is now confident he is back to his best.

Indeed, Beef Or Salmon has become a strong market-order of late and William Hill now make him 7-2 joint favourite for the Gold Cup with Paul Nicholls' Strong Flow.

Willie Mullins runs Rule Supreme in today's Ladbrokes' World Hurdle, but has also left him in the Gold Cup.

The participation of Grey Abbey in the race remains in the balance.

The popular 11-year-old has been doubtful for the big race in recent weeks due to a swollen joint, and the possibility of fast ground at Cheltenham has added to trainer Howard Johnson’s concerns.

“He’s in hellish fettle. The lads say he is in brilliant form, but I’ve got a real puzzle with him over whether to run or not,” he said yesterday.

“The more rain we get, the better it should be as it will take the sting out of the ground, but I am just not sure that he’s sound.

“He’s bandaged up all the time at home. The problem is with the check ligament on his off-fore.

“He’ll be retired at the end of this season whatever happens, but I would hate to think anything bad might happen to him in his final race after everything he has done over the years.

“I’ll have a look at him when he comes off the box and make my mind up when I’ve seen him.”

Kicking King winner of the King George VI at Kempton over Christmas was yesterday reported to be in good order by trainer Tom Taaffe, whose father Pat partnered the mighty Arkle to a hat-trick of Gold Cup wins from 1964 to 1966.

“He’s in super form. He was absolutely mental on the gallops this morning and the horse is obviously very well at the moment,” Taaffe said.

Farmer Jack, well backed for the Gold Cup in recent weeks following his success in the Racing Post Chase at Kempton, collapsed and died of a suspected heart attack on Philip Hobbs' gallops yesterday morning.

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