Connell swoops for Mossey Joe

Mossey Joe is likely to be targeted at the Foxhunter Chase at the Cheltenham Festival for new trainer Enda Bolger after he was snapped up by leading owner Barry Connell.

The 11-year-old was last seen running away with the Champion Hunters’ Chase at Stratford in June for former trainer Declan McNamara, but he was sold at Cheltenham’s Brightwells Sale on Saturday following a dispute involving his previous owners.

Bloodstock agent Gerry Hogan was happy to go to £160,000 on Connell’s behalf.

Hogan said: “I bought Mossey Joe for owner Barry Connell and the horse will be sent to trainer Enda Bolger with the Cheltenham Foxhunter his likely target.

“I imagine he might go straight to Cheltenham but Barry has a programme in mind for him and, despite his age, the horse had been on his mind for a while.”

Connell has another ambitious spring target in mind for Mossey Joe.

He said: “He will get a Grand National entry. He’s rated 148 so he should be guaranteed a run.”

Alan King is targeting a tilt at the Arkle Trophy for Valdez after he made it three from three over fences in Saturday’s Lightning Novices’ Chase at Doncaster.

The Exeter and Newbury winner was sent off favourite for the Grade Two contest following the withdrawal of 2012 Champion Hurdle hero Rock On Ruby and got the job done in fine style under Robert Thornton, seeing off Irish challenger Arnaud.

King admitted on his website he was “mighty relieved” to see Valdez come home in front, his first runner in over three weeks following the well publicised problems his string has suffered over the last couple of months.

“You don’t often see Doncaster ride as soft as that, and I think Valdez will be more effective on better ground,” the trainer told www.alankingracing.co.uk.

“But I was just glad to get him back. He was only just ready to run after all our hold-ups, but he has gone and done the job well and it will be Cheltenham next stop.

“We have the Grand Annual as Plan B, but I would like to go for the Arkle.”

Kim Bailey meanwhile remains keen on a tilt at the Cheltenham Gold Cup with Harry Topper after his good run in defeat in Saturday’s Argento Chase.

The seven-year-old clinched the Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby on his seasonal reappearance in early November, but his jumping fell apart when he was last of three in the Future Stars Chase at Sandown the following month.

His jumping again left plenty to be desired in Saturday’s Gold Cup trial, but he stormed up the hill to finish third and Bailey feels he would not be out of place in the blue riband in March, provided conditions are suitable.

“Harry Topper is essentially not a bad jumper. When he is wrong at one he is just a bit slow to put him himself right, so he is not a natural,” said the trainer.

“He was giving weight to horses rated higher than him on Saturday. He’d have been a stone better off with the winner in a handicap.

“All in all, I thought it was a fantastic run and provided the ground is soft, he’ll be going back to Cheltenham in March.

“I think the extra distance of the Gold Cup will be a real help to him.”

Bailey did enjoy a major victory on Saturday with The Rainbow Hunter a 25-1 winner of the Sky Bet Chase at Doncaster.

The 10-year-old only made it as far as the eighth fence in last year’s Grand National, but another tilt at the world’s most famous steeplechase is very much on his agenda.

Bailey said: “He has come out of the race very well and we’re very pleased with him, obviously.

“I was not surprised to see him win, as I thought he would run very well, but we were worried about the ground beforehand.

“I think the rain that fell during racing probably helped us as it just made the ground that bit looser and he was able to get through it. He has never been able to handle really holding ground.

“He had a wind operation after his last run at Haydock and I think that has made a big difference as well.

“Aintree is the plan. He’ll most probably have a run somewhere beforehand, but I’m not sure where that will be. We’ll see what the handicapper does.”

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