Meade ponders next target for Iktitaf

NOEL MEADE has reported his Tolworth Hurdle absentee Iktitaf fine after an examination on returning to his yard in Navan.

The Grade One winner was due to go off a short-priced favourite at Sandown but he was an 11th-hour withdrawal after he became cast his in his box.

“He got a bang on his hock while he was in his box which was enough for us to pull him out, but he is fine now,” said Meade.

The gelding had previously accounted for O’Muircheartaigh in the Royal Bond Novice Hurdle at Fairyhouse in early December but Mead was unsure of Iktitaf’s next likely target.

“I really don’t know where he’ll go next as I haven’t had chance to have a look that far forward as our plan was Sandown on Saturday and take it from there. The important thing is that he is fine.”

Meade also had news of Wild Passion who was beaten into second behind Arteea, despite him being an odds-on favourite.

“I think a lot of Wild Passion’s problems this year can be put down to the ground,” said the handler.

“He has shown top-class form at Cheltenham and Punchestown on genuine good ground and the common denominator on all his mediocre runs seems to be very heavy, sticky ground.”

The gelding also ran in blinkers for the first time on Sunday and despite the disappointing run Meade wouldn’t be against using them again.

“I certainly wouldn’t rule out using them again and we’ll see if they have an effect on better ground.”

Meanwhile, Cloone River faces a crucial check-up today to determine how long he will be sidelined by a back injury.

Trainer Paul Nolan had to rule the 10-year-old out of the Victor Chandler Chase after he aggravated an old problem and will now undergo a thorough examination.

“Cloone River is going for a scan tomorrow in the Curragh,” said Nolan. “He was supposed to go today but it has been put back.”

Nolan initially expressed doubts about Cloone River being ready in time to run at the Cheltenham Festival but is keeping his fingers crossed for good news tomorrow.

“The problem may not be as bad as first thought but we will know more tomorrow,” he added.

Jockey Ruby Walsh will be out of action for at least a few more days, according to his agent and sister Jennifer Walsh.

Ruby, who was unseated at Cheltenham on New Year’s Day by Le Duc and then suffered a nasty fall from Sporazene 35 minutes later, is still feeling the effects of his double spill and wants to be fully fit before returning to action.

“He’s still sore,” said Jennifer Walsh. “He told me he was going to give it another few days. I did not even ask him when he thought he might be back he just said that he was still sore and we will look again in another couple of days.”

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