Harchibald likely to take Bula chance

HARCHIBALD appears a likely starter in Saturday’s totesport Bula Hurdle at Cheltenham after satisfying Noel Meade in a crucial piece of work on the gallops.

The County Meath trainer has not given his star hurdler the complete go-ahead for the Grade Two contest, but he looks set to run if he can book him a ticket across the Irish Sea.

“He looks likely to travel if the ground stays right and if I can get the travel arrangements worked out in time,” said Meade.

“He worked well this morning. He did a piece on the grass and I was pleased with it.”

Harchibald will be returning to Prestbury Park for the first time since his narrow eclipse in the Champion Hurdle.

The six-year-old scored at Tipperary in October but lost out in controversial circumstances at Punchestown last time when he was squeezed up on the rails.

Jockey Paul Carberry was banned for his riding of the horse that day, but will be free to partner him on Saturday after his suspension was reduced.

Meanwhile, War Of Attrition will face a maximum of eight rivals as he bids to maintain his tremendous start to the season in Sunday’s John Durkan Memorial Punchestown Chase.

After defeating Cheltenham Gold Cup winner Kicking King on his reappearance at Punchestown in October, Mouse Morris’ fast-improving chaser gained a narrow verdict over Rathgar Beau in the Clonmel Oil Chase last month.

War Of Attrition’s chief rival in the Grade One event looks to be Watson Lake, who he beat by a length at the track in April’s Swordlestown Cup and was a tidy winner at Navan last month.

Other leading players could be Michael O’Brien’s former smart novice Forget The Past, the Michael Hourigan-trained Hi Cloy and the popular veteran Native Upmanship.

Jim, Le Coudray, Ned Kelly and Strong Project complete the possibles.

Kicking King landed the two-and-a-half-mile race last year before his victory in the King George VI Chase, but Tom Taaffe pulled the horse out at the five-day confirmation stage.

“He was never an intended runner and was entered about eight weeks ago for the race,” said Taaffe.

“I’ve taken him out at the forfeit stage and he’s spot-on for Sandown.”

War Of Attrition is odds-on with both Ladbrokes and Cashmans while Watson Lake is the 3-1 second favourite with both firms.

Ladbrokes: 10-11 War Of Attrition, 100-30 Watson Lake, 6-1 Forget The Past, 8-1 Hi Cloy, 14-1 Native Upmanship, 16-1 Jim, 20-1 Strong Project, 25-1 Le Coudray, Ned Kelly.

Cashmans: 4-5 War Of Attrition, 3-1 Watson Lake, 8-1 Forget The Past, Hi Cloy, Jim, 12-1 Native Upmanship, 20-1 Le Coudray, 25-1 Strong Project, 33-1 Ned Kelly.

Noel Meade has not decided yet whether to send Sir Oj over to Cheltenham on Saturday for the Robin Cook Memorial Gold Cup.

The eight-year-old made a promising return on the Flat at Navan before disappointing over fences at Galway in October when making a number of jumping errors.

He is a general 25-1 shot for the Grade Three chase, but Meade’s main concern is whether he will make the cut as he is 23rd in a race which has a 20-runner safety limit.

“I’m not sure if he will run,” said the trainer. “He is in good shape but he is 4lb out at the weights and he needs three to drop out to get in.

“I need to talk to the owners before I decide.”

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