Blow for Bowe as Solerina ruled out of Cheltenham

BRILLIANT mare Solerina, winner of seven of her eight races over flights and strongly fancied for the SunAlliance Novices’ Hurdle at Cheltenham, will miss the Festival.

A desperately disappointed Michael Bowe confirmed last night that the six-year-old had met with a setback and was currently on the easy-list.

Said Bowe: “She had a little scratch on her hind leg, which had been lying dormant for a while. It blew up at the weekend, however, and turned into a deep infection. The vet had to give her heavy antibiotics and they sickened her system.

She is a little depressed and off her grub and there’s no point taking a sick horse to Cheltenham.”

The daughter of Toulon may not, however, be finished for the season. “We will see how she is, but she owes us nothing and has her best years ahead of her,” said Bowe.

Cashmans had Solerina as their 7-1 third favourite for the SunAlliance, behind John Joe O’Neill’s Coolnagorna and Edward O’Grady’s Pizarro.

She had gone from strength to strength through the campaign, producing a career-best performance at Leopardstown earlier this month with a spectacular two lengths defeat of the high class Hardy Eustace in the Deloitte and Touche Novice Hurdle.

Bowe, though, had far better news of Limestone Lad, who is right back on target for the Stayers’ Hurdle at Cheltenham, following a bout of coughing.

The 11-year-old was forced to miss his planned pre-Cheltenham spin, the Boyne Hurdle, at Navan ten days ago and his participation at Prestbury Park was very much in doubt.

He was in terrific shape, however, yesterday, after a searching gallop at Thurles racecourse on Monday.

“He had the equivalent of a race at Thurles,” said Bowe. “He has come out of it squealing and bucking.

“Indeed, Caroline Norris, who was here taking photographs for the Racing Post, was lucky to escape with her camera intact!”

Bowe is now confident Limestone Lad is set to run a big race against the champion, Baracouda, in the Stayers’ Hurdle. “I wouldn’t like to sound too cocky, because this game can bring you down to size in no time, but I don’t think the break did Limestone Lad any harm,” he said.

Meanwhile, Cashmans yesterday reported a huge run on Willie Mullins’ once-raced Royal Alphabet for the Champion Bumper at Cheltenham.

Mullins is set to be at least four-handed in the race, but the Cashmans’ client seemed to have little doubt that Royal Alphabet, absent since winning at the Galway Festival in August, is going to emerge at least the best of them.

The firm were going 22-1 about the horse and were asked for a wager of €4,000 at those odds. They accepted a bet of €2,000 at 22-1, and the client settled for the other €2,000 at 16-1. Royal Alphabet is now a 12-1 chance for the Cheltenham race.

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