Russell will wait to see what sort of pace is in the race before deciding but is thinking about tweaking his approach in the wake of a disappointing finish to the Lexus Chase at Christmas.
Significantly, the Youghal pilot doesn’t view the Hennessy Gold Cup as a prep race but has warned that he will not “empty the tank” ahead of Lord Windermere’s bid to retain his chasing title.
“It’s very hard to say that you’re using a Grade One, an Irish Gold Cup, as a prep race” said Russell on irishracing.com podcast Talking Horses, which is recorded live on Racing FM. “He’ll be going all-guns-blazing to win it Sunday.
“The one thing we don’t want to do is empty the tank and leave it up in Leopardstown. It stood to us last year that we didn’t do that. Going to the second-last, if he’s there with a shout, he’ll be going hard to win the Hennessy.
“The last day I rode him at Leopardstown, I probably dropped him in a little bit too far. I over-exaggerated it a bit on the ground. It was very tacky and I couldn’t get past horses.
“Hopefully the ground will be a little bit drier Sunday and we may try to ride him a little closer as long as the horse is happy doing that but again, we tried it last year and it didn’t work. So we’ll just have to see and play it by ear.”
Russell is expecting a very competitive race and like many observers, maintains that the John Kiely-trained Carlingford Lough is a major contender. “On His Own has a good level of form. Boston Bob finished in front of him (in the Lexus) and Carlingford Lough as well. We have to keep an eye on him, he ran a blinder the last day in Leopardstown.
“It’s not going to be an easy task on Sunday but the horse really does come to himself on a bit nicer ground and a very competitive race.”
Meanwhile The Tullow Tank will bid to redeem his reputation in Sunday’s Flogas Novice Chase at Leopardstown.
Formerly known as the Dr P.J. Moriarty, the Grade One has a rich history and has been a constant source of Cheltenham Festival winners down the years.
It’s most recent top-class graduate was Lord Windermere, who finished a half-length third to Boston Bob two years ago before winning the RSA Chase at Cheltenham and following up in the Gold Cup last year.
The Tullow Tank was a top-class novice hurdler last season for the now-banned Philip Fenton and while the steroid scandal was still ongoing owner Barry Connell thought it prudent he should not run at Cheltenham.
He was moved to the late Dessie Hughes and is now in the care of Hughes’ daughter, Sandra.
Having won on his chasing debut impressively at Fairyhouse he has been below-par the last twice but has been pleasing Hughes at home recently.
“I’m happy with him again now and he’ll run at the weekend,” she said.
Hughes will also be represented by Sub Lieutenant in the Deloitte Novice Hurdle, who was second in a Grade One at Leopardstown over Christmas.
It took him seven runs to eventually win a bumper but he was beaten by some classy types like Fine Article and Fletchers Flyer. Having won his bumper he then scored at the first time of asking over hurdles by 10 lengths at Fairyhouse before his run at Leopardstown over Christmas.
“Sub Lieutenant will run in the Deloitte and the extra two furlongs will suit,” said Hughes.
Gordon Elliott believes Clarcam has “a massive each-way chance” in the Arkle at Cheltenham.
A decent hurdler, Clarcam has excelled over fences this season, winning a Grade One at Leopardstown over Christmas, beating Vautour in the process.
He was no match for Vautour’s stablemate Un De Sceaux in the Irish Arkle, though, and will meet him at Cheltenham on worse terms, but Elliott believes you should never be afraid of one horse.
“He’s a gentleman, the way he travels and jumps and obviously he’s won a Grade One for us. He was travelling very well in the Fred Winter when he came down last year,” he told At The Races.
“He didn’t run a bad race the last day against Un De Sceaux, I just think he is a very special horse.
“We know he’s been to Cheltenham and he handles the track and we’re going to run in the Arkle.
“If your man (Un De Sceaux ) stands up he looks unbeatable, but you can’t be afraid of one horse. If you were to listen to everyone you wouldn’t run anywhere, but he’s in good form and we’ll go straight to Cheltenham now and if he can get placed it would brilliant.
“If he runs the race he ran the last day or the time before, he’d have to have a massive each-way chance.
“We tried to follow Ruby (Walsh) the last day from the second last and got very tired after the last and shot ourselves in the foot.”