Edward O’Grady is among a legion of Irish trainers gladdened by a break in the weather as his Tranquil Sea returns to the track seeking his first Grade One win in the John Durkan Memorial Punchestown Chase at Fairyhouse.
The eight-race card is of festival calibre, featuring key events rescued from various abandoned meetings, and the John Durkan is being staged away from its usual home after three failed attempts to run it already.
Tranquil Sea, priced up early as 7-4 favourite by Ladbrokes, won last year’s Paddy Power Gold Cup and erased the memory of a couple of weaker efforts in the spring with a tidy effort in last month’s Clonmel Oil Chase.
“Horse Racing Ireland, the courses and the sponsors have been fantastic - we’re all singing from the same hymnsheet really,” said O’Grady, who has not escaped the cold in County Tipperary.
“We haven’t had too many problems with the snow – more the frost, and it has been down to minus 15C. Everyone has worked very hard, harrowing the gallops to make sure they are all right. It’s been a terrible thing.
“We were lucky to get a run into Tranquil Sea at Clonmel as we’ve been messed about badly, but he seems in good form and is entitled to run well.”
O’Grady said there had been too many disruptions to plan any further ahead than Wednesday.
Eoin Griffin, who trains in Co Kilkenny, warns Glencove Marina has not enjoyed an ideal preparation.
He joined Griffin after an injury-hit spell with Willie Mullins and built upon an ordinary reappearance by beating Notre Pere in the Thurles Chase.
“We are delighted to get going again, it looked like it was in doubt for some time but full marks to the racecourse and the authorities to get it back on,” said Griffin.
“I hope he can run a good race. I think we were hit worse than many by the snow and it caused him to miss a couple of important pieces of work.
“He never missed a day’s exercise, as I have a woodchip and Polytrack at home, but we were planning to take him for a couple of gallops away from home and he couldn’t do it.
“I’d be a little bit anxious he was one bit short, but hopefully it’s enough.”
Looking further ahead, Griffin added: “He’s in the King George and the Lexus and the original plan was to go from the Durkan to the Lexus. We were still snowed under when we had to confirm for the King George and it was really as a precaution in case the weather went bad in Ireland again.
“But it’s quite close now between this and the Lexus, so we’ll have to see what happens here first.”
Mullins runs both J’Y Vole and Cooldine and has not been able to get a pipe-opener into either.
Of Cooldine, who was fifth in the Cheltenham Gold Cup and third at Punchestown, he said: “He needs to get going. It’s a bit close to Christmas and I thought a lot about that, but he’ll take his chance.
“He’s well but he might just need the run and the trip might be a bit short for him as well.”
Trafford Lad has had only two spaced out runs for Lar Butler in the last year and a half and the trainer was most disappointed with his jumping when pulled up behind Kauto Star at Down Royal.
He said: “He’s absolutely flying at home and it’s one step at a time really.
“There were no real excuses for Down Royal, he was fit enough for it, but his jumping was just horrendous.
“We’ve been more than happy with his schooling, we just have to hope he puts it together on the track.”
Roberto Goldback, Vic Venturi, Mossbank and Coolcashin complete the field with British contenders The Listener and The Nightingale not declared.
Neither was Naas winner Captain Cee Bee, who has another target.
Trainer Eddie Harty said: “He will probably wait for the two-mile chase at Leopardstown (Paddy Power Dial-A-Bet Chase) at Christmas.
“It’s getting a bit close to Christmas now, and I was a bit worried about him running over two and a half on what could be heavy ground.”