Harchi bows out

NOEL Meade has confirmed that his brilliant hurdler Harchibald has run his last race.

The 10-year-old is perhaps most famous for his narrow defeat in the 2005 Champion Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival, but he did pick up five Grade One events over timber during his career.

Second to Sizing Europe on his first start over fences at Punchestown in October, Harchibald was unplaced on his final outing on the all-weather at Dundalk last Friday.

“Harchibald is going to be retired and is not going to run again,” said Meade.

“We made the decision on Monday as every time he has run recently, he has been coming back stiff behind and the ground is much against him at the moment.

“It’s been hard finding the right race for him and he was going to be getting on in years by the time the ground came right, so we’ve decided to call it a day with him.

“He’s been a fantastic horse for us and a great horse to be associated with.”

Harchibald enjoyed some good battles with the likes of Hardy Eustace and Brave Inca during his career and Meade thinks Harchibald could clash again with the last-named in the show ring.

“He’ll stay with us and maybe he’ll end up competing with Brave Inca again at the Dublin Horse Show,” he added.

Meanwhile owner David Johnson believes conditions will be ideal for Well Chief as the veteran bids to strike again at the highest level in the Keith Prowse Hospitality Tingle Creek Chase at Sandown on Saturday.

Five years have elapsed since the David Pipe-trained 10-year-old last grabbed a Grade one success, with leg problems limiting him to just 12 racecourse outings since that Aintree victory.

The latest came as he gained revenge over his Champion Chase reverse at the hands of Master Minded when turning the tables at Cheltenham last month.

Well Chief will be lining up in the Tingle Creek for the second time, having finished third to Moscow Flyer and Azertyuiop in a stirring climax in 2004.

Johnson said: “It is nice to have him back out on the track so quick as, at one time, he would run and be off again.

“To have him out twice within a month is great and he seems to be very well.

“He got a cut at Cheltenham but seems to be over that and his legs are holding up fine.

“I get a daily bulletin on him and has been swimming this morning. David Pipe is very pleased with him and there will be no excuses.

“He has been out of the frame for so long that a lot of people seem to have forgotten about him and he was just a six-year-old when he was racing against Moscow Flyer and Azertyuiop.

“I am really excited about the weekend and the ground should be ideal for him. I imagine it will be soft and that will help his legs to stop them getting jarred up.

“I expect him to get there and run his race. Beyond that may the best horse win.”

Although dual Champion Chase hero and last year’s winner Master Minded is absent, Well Chief faces a strong field and is third in the ante-post market behind Big Zeb and Twist Magic.

Johnson added: “Master Minded not being there seems to have opened up the race but it looks very competitive.

“Big Zeb will be favourite, and deserves to be, Forpadydeplasterer is last year’s Arkle winner and Twist Magic goes well fresh and was running a huge race last year when falling.”

Clerk of the course Andrew Cooper confirmed conditions will be on the soft side, with the weather forecast predicting unsettled weather over the next few days.

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Join us for a special evening of Cheltenham chat on Friday March 12 at 6.30pm with racing legend and Irish Examiner columnist Ruby Walsh, Irish Examiner racing correspondent Tommy Lyons, and former champion jockey and tv presenter Mick Fitzgerald, author of Better than Sex.


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