Benbulben to get World Hurdle chance

Owner Barry Connell has confirmed Mount Benbulben will be supplemented for the Ladbrokes World Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival.

Although the Gordon Elliott-trained nine-year-old is a Grade One winner over fences, jumping problems have prevented him from realising his full potential.

He made a number of mistakes on his way to finishing fourth in the King George VI Chase at Kempton on St Syephen’s Day and was far from foot perfect when runner-up behind On His Own in last weekend’s Bobbyjo Chase at Fairyhouse.

While he has a clear preference for going right-handed, Mount Benbulben’s owner is hoping that will be less of a problem over the smaller obstacles and plans to add him to the World Hurdle field next week at a cost of £13,750 (€16,737).

Connell said: “There is nothing much for him between the Fairyhouse race and the Punchestown Festival, so we thought we’d give the World Hurdle a go.

“Big Buck’s is there and if Annie Power runs they are the big two, but we’d like to think Mount Benbulben could run into a place.

“His jumping has been letting him down over fences. He made several mistakes at Fairyhouse the other day, which probably cost him, and I think he would have been a good third in the King George if his jumping had been better.

“It’s frustrating, as when he puts it all together he’s a very, very talented horse.

“I don’t think there is any harm in running him back over hurdles at Cheltenham and if he were to run well, it would open up other avenues for him.

“He could go back over fences at Punchestown.

“The Punchestown Gold Cup is an obvious target for him.”

Meanwhile, dual Cheltenham Festival winner Alderwood is unlikely to run at this year’s meeting, according to trainer Tom Mullins.

The 10-year-old won the County Hurdle in 2012 before following up in the Grand Annual Chase at the meeting last year and is as short as 8-1 for the BetVictor Queen Mother Champion Chase this time around.

However, he has not been seen since making his seasonal reappearance in October and while Mullins had been hoping for another Festival run, he admits it is “60-40 against” the gelding running at Cheltenham.

“It’s looking unlikely that he’ll be there,” said Mullins.

“As for Aintree and Punchestown, I’m just not sure. We’ll have to wait and see if it settles down.”


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