Rule The World may head straight to Cheltenham

Scintillating Naas scorer Rule The World is likely to head straight to the Cheltenham Festival in March should connections give a trip to Prestbury Park the green light.

The six-year-old appeared to have plenty on his plate stepping up to Grade Two level for the Slaney Novice Hurdle on Sunday, tackling two horses who had already proven their worth at the highest level in the Willie Mullins-trained Champagne Fever and Dessie Hughes’ Minsk.

The former was subsequently found to be suffering from a respiratory tract infection, but there did not appear to be any excuses for Minsk, who was brushed aside by Rule The World in impressive fashion.

As a result of his weekend performance, Rule The World is prominent in ante-post lists for both the Neptune Investment Management Novices’ Hurdle and the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle at Cheltenham, but trainer Mouse Morris is in no rush to confirm his participation in either race.

Morris said: “It was a very good performance on the day. I know there were excuses for Willie’s horse, but we still beat Dessie Hughes’ horse 16 lengths and he’d shown some good form.

“I don’t think the ground really matters to our horse, but he might be a bit better on better ground.

“We haven’t made any definite plans. I’ll talk to the owners (Gigginstown House Stud) and we’ll see where we are in a couple of weeks.

“I wouldn’t say at this stage he’ll definitely go to Cheltenham, but if he does he’ll be going straight there.

“He’ll probably be entered for the two-and-a-half-mile race (Neptune) and the three-miler (Albert Bartlett), so we’ll see. Two and a half miles might be as far as he’d want to go round Cheltenham at the moment.

“He is still quite an immature horse and if we decide not to go to Cheltenham, there is always Fairyhouse and Punchestown at home.”

Meanwhile, Noble Prince could revert to hurdles for a tilt at the Coral Cup at the Cheltenham Festival.

Paul Nolan’s nine-year-old disappointed on his seasonal reappearance in the Old Roan Chase at Aintree, after which a foot problem was discovered.

Noble Prince, who won the 2011 Jewson Novices’ Chase at the Festival, has not raced since the Old Roan in October, but is now back in full training.

“He had to have some time off after splitting his hoof in Aintree, but he’s back cantering now and seems well,” said Co Wexford-based Nolan.

“It’s a case of so far, so good with him and, hopefully, if everything continues the right way, we’ll have him back in time for Cheltenham.

“We’ll probably give him a prep run over hurdles somewhere and then go to Cheltenham, where he could have a go at the Coral Cup.

“He ran well in the County Hurdle at Cheltenham a few years ago when he was fifth behind Thousand Stars and we probably picked the wrong race – we probably should have gone for the Coral Cup then.

“Fingers crossed everything continues to go well.”

Joncol could head for the Kinloch Brae Chase at Thurles later this month after a minor setback forced him to miss an engagement at Naas on Sunday.

Paul Nolan’s 2010 Irish Hennessy Gold Cup hero was due to have a second successive spin over smaller obstacles in the Slaney Novice Hurdle, but had to be withdrawn due to a foot problem.

He will attempt to regain his Hennessy crown at Leopardstown on February 9, but may first appear in the Kinloch Brae on January 17.

“He just had a high nail go through his foot, it left a bit of puss and he was slightly lame, but he’s 100%,” said Nolan.

“We’ll have a think about what we do next. He’ll get an entry in the Kinloch Brae Chase at Thurles later this month, that is about three weeks before the Hennessy.

“We’ll see how we go between now and then and decide whether to give him a prep run in the Kinloch Brae or go straight to Leopardstown.”

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