Clonmel opener for National hope Goonyella

Crabbie’s Grand National entry Goonyella is to have his first start of the year in Thursday’s Surehaul Mercedes-Benz Novice Hurdle at Clonmel.

Clonmel opener for National hope Goonyella

Trainer Jim Dreaper’s hand has been slightly forced with his chaser, who has never run over hurdles but is appearing in a Grade Three event which features a few useful youngsters like Don Poli, The Job Is Right and Railway Zira.

Goonyella’s season had been mapped out towards the Coral Welsh National, but due to bad weather he had to spend a few days in Chepstow and only finished eighth in the end.

Dreaper said: “He had a pretty tiring trip to Wales so I gave him a month off and as long as Clonmel’s on, he’ll run.

“In Ireland, it isn’t the same as in England, as you can’t run in a maiden hurdle if you’ve won a chase, so we’ve got to take on winners.

“I’m not too concerned about the result, he’s been jumping a bit higher and slower than we’d like so hopefully this will help.”

Goonyella is 75th on the National list with 10st 1lb and Dreaper said: “I’d like it if 20 horses could be taken out of it, but if he gets in, then we’d like to run at Aintree.

“He won’t go to Cheltenham and it wouldn’t be ideal to go for something like the Midlands National, as it’s only three weeks away from Aintree.”

Mount Benbulben could have his first outing since finishing fourth in the King George as he features among 10 entries for Saturday’s Attheraces Bobbyjo Chase at Fairyhouse.

The nine-year-old was last seen finishing 17 lengths behind Silviniaco Conti at Kempton on Boxing Day and is one of three potential runners for trainer Gordon Elliott.

The Trim handler also has Toner D’Oudairies and Roi Du Mee in contention, with the pair both sporting the colours of Gigginstown House Stud.

Gigginstown also have Colm Murphy’s Quito De La Roque and the Charlie Swan-trained Make A Track in the reckoning.

Willie Mullins has two possibles in Thyestes Chase winner On His Own and Prince De Beachene, both of whom are possible Crabbie’s Grand National contenders for owners Graham and Andrea Wylie.

Lion Na Bearnai, winner of the 2012 Irish Grand National, could take his chance for Thomas Gibney while Raz De Maree and Buckers Bridge complete the list of entries.

Meanwhile, Dan Skelton has been forced to scratch Willow’s Saviour from next month’s Sky Bet Supreme Novices’ Hurdle at Cheltenham.

The winner of The Ladbroke at Ascot in December did not make his next intended engagement in the Betfair Hurdle at Newbury after meeting with a minor setback.

Kaki De La Pree will have two options at the Cheltenham Festival, although his participation is very much dependent on the ground.

The seven-year-old cost £115,000 back in 2011 but was snapped up by trainer Tom Symonds for just £13,000 last year after one run for Nicky Henderson.

Kaki De La Pree has already paid back that price tag by winning two of his five hurdles starts this term, as well as finishing a creditable second in a Haydock Grade Two on Saturday.

He was beaten 12 lengths by Toubeera, although he was conceding 10lb, and Symonds was pleased to see him step up on his previous fifth in the Challow Hurdle.

Kaki De La Pree is a 33-1 shot for the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle at the Festival and is also qualified for the £80,000 Pertemps Network Final, but the Cheltenham ground is key to his running plans.

“We were very happy with his performance, he ran how we thought he might,” Symonds said.

“He’s a big, heavy-topped horse and I wouldn’t want to risk him on anything other than soft ground really.”

Elsewhere, Mallowney will be kept to domestic competition for the rest of this season after his respectable second-placed finish in Sunday’s Flyingbolt Novice Chase at Navan.

Trainer Tim Doyle is planning a return to Naas, scene of three of the six-year-old gelding’s four career victories to date, before the big spring meetings arrive.

Mallowney went head-to-head with Bright New Dawn in the Grade Two event before weakening on the run-in, but it was an improvement on his previous run in the Irish Arkle, where he fell at the second-last.

“I thought he ran a good race – he was just outstayed,” said Doyle.

“I hope to go to Naas for a Listed race in three weeks’ time and if he stays in good form, then we can look at Fairyhouse and Punchestown.”

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