Salsify in line for Festival return

Salsify, the 2013 Foxhunter Chase winner, could be in line for a popular return to Cheltenham in March.

Rodger Sweeney’s prolific 10-year-old has been sidelined since December 2013 because of injury but has been earmarked for an imminent comeback.

Salsify is due to contest the Raymond Smith Memorial Hunters Chase – a race he won between 2012-13 – at Leopardstown on Sunday week, after which he will be geared up for the Foxhunter.

County Cork-based Sweeney said: “It’s been a long road with him, but he’s fit and well at the moment and has been working well.

“He’s had a long time off so we have to be very careful with him.

“That (Cheltenham) is still the hope, but we will probably run him on Sunday week on Hennessy day at Leopardstown.”

Meanwhile, Ladbroke Hurdle winner Bayan is set to become Gordon Elliott’s first ever runner in France when he heads to Auteuil in March.

The consistent six-year-old has given Elliott and his enthusiastic owners the Core Syndicate, which includes At The Races presenter Gary O’Brien, plenty of big days.

Third in the Coral Cup at Cheltenham last season, he was also second in the Galway Hurdle.

Elliott said: “He has been a great servant to the yard. I think he has been placed 16 times out of his 19 starts for us and won the Ladbroke Hurdle.

“We are going to go to France on March 1, there is a race in Auteuil, so we are looking forward to going there.

“We haven’t had a runner over there so hopefully he will be our first runner in France.”

Michael Hourigan is unlikely to be represented by The Crafty Butcher or The Job Is Right in the Betfred Grand National Trial at Haydock on February 14.

The Crafty Butcher ran a good race to finish fourth in the Grade Two Woodlands Park 100 Club Novice Chase, while The Job Is Right would have been second in the Thyestes last week, but for unseating his rider at the last.

Hourigan feels the prospect of testing ground would not suit either horse.

The Limerick handler said: “The Crafty Butcher ran a grand race in the Woodlands Park.

“He finished behind some very nice horses and if there’d been another bend to run around he might have finished second.

“I thought the handicapper might have had us on a lower mark over there but it’s just about the same.

“The Butcher might run in a Pertemps qualifier back over hurdles at Punchestown this weekend.

“The Job Is Right will just wait a bit, he would have been second to a very nice horse (Djakadam) in the Thyestes.

“I put them both in to see what mark they’d get, really.

“His aim will either be the four-miler at Cheltenham or the Irish National, one of those.

“Neither of them want it heavy, anyway.”

Meanwhile, officials at Wetherby expect no problems ahead of tomorrow’s meeting if the forecast is correct.

While the course had a light dusting of snow yesterday afternoon, positive temperaturest today are expected to shift that and temperatures are not due to dip much below freezing, if at all.

“We have lovely blue sky at present but we had a blizzard for an hour between 1-2pm and that has left us with a light covering,” said clerk of the course Jonjo Sanderson.

“There’s some rain and sleet forecast but we are not expecting any more snow.

“It is supposed to be a dry day tomorrow with temperatures of 4C or 5C and the same for Saturday.

“If that is how it turns out I don’t envisage any problems at all.

“Obviously, if it hasn’t shifted by tomorrow afternoon we may have to take a look but as yet we are not planning an inspection.”

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