Runaway November Handicap winner Open Eagle is set to embark upon a career over hurdles this winter after joining Willie Mullins.
The five-year-old was a stunning 12-length winner of the traditional end-of-season highlight in the Doncaster mud last Saturday, his fourth victory since joining David O’Meara and Middleham Park Racing last year.
Open Eagle has now been snapped up by the Supreme Horse Racing Club to be trained in Ireland by Mullins.
Supreme racing manager Steve Massey said: “We’re delighted to get hold of such a quality horse.
“He showed on Saturday he obviously handles soft ground really well, which bodes well for his future in Ireland.
“Once the opportunity arose, Willie was delighted to buy him.
“He’s rated 104 on the Flat after his win on Saturday and hopefully he’ll take the club to another level.
“He’s done really well for his previous owners and hopefully he’ll be as lucky for us as he was them.
“The plan is to go hurdling when Willie gets him ready to go and hopefully there are some exciting times ahead.”
Meanwhile, last year’s winner Johns Spirit is among a field of 19 declared for the Paddy Power Gold Cup at Cheltenham tomorrow.
Jonjo O’Neill’s seven-year-old warmed up for a repeat bid with victory over the course on his seasonal return last month.
With joint-top weights Rajdhani Express and Uxizandre having been withdrawn as expected, Johns Spirit now heads the handicap along with Oscar Whisky from Nicky Henderson’s stable.
Ante-post favourite Present View is set to take his chance for trainer Jamie Snowden, while Evan Williams saddles leading fancy Buywise and King Massini.
Among the other fancied runners are Emma Lavelle’s Edgardo Sol, Martin Keighley’s stable stalwart Champion Court and Malcolm Jefferson’s Attaglance.
There are two Irish-trained hopefuls, Charles Byrnes’ Shanpallas and the Thomas Gibney-trained Orpheus Valley.
Last year’s runner-up Colour Squadron, who is engaged to run at Cheltenham today, was the most significant defection.
Neither of Mouse Morris’ two entries, First Lieutenant and Rogue Angel, will take their chance in the Murphy Group Handicap Chase at Cheltenham tomorrow.
Morris has decided not to make the journey across the Irish Sea, with the absence of First Lieutenant, who was at the head of the handicap, meaning the weights will go up by at least 14lb.
The Co Tipperary trainer remains baffled by First Lieutenant’s disappointing run when he was a well-beaten fourth to Road To Riches in the JNwine.com Champion Chase at Down Royal on November 1.
Rogue Angel was last seen finishing a close second behind Black Benny in a handicap chase at Galway in October, but he also holds an entry in the Ladbrokes Troytown Handicap Chase at Navan on Sunday week.
“Neither of them run at Cheltenham on Saturday. They’re going to stay at home,” said Morris.
“First Lieutenant will be in the John Durkan (Punchestown, December 7).
“That might be his next run, but I just can’t work out what happened in the north.”
Ante-post favourite Djakadam has been allotted 10st 7lb in the Hennessy Gold Cup at Newbury on November 29.
A talented novice last term, the five-year-old is trained by Willie Mullins, who also has Champagne Fever (11st 9lb), Ballycasey (11st 6lb) and The Paparrazi Kid (10st 6lb) engaged in the prestigious staying handicap chase.
Ireland is further represented by Gordon Elliott’s Don Cossack (11st 11lb) and Dessie Hughes’ Lyreen Legend (11st 8lb).
The stellar entry includes last year’s first two home, Nicky Henderson’s Triolo D’Alene (11st 8lb) and the Paul Nicholls-trained Rocky Creek (11st 7lb).
Other notable names are leading Paddy Power Gold Cup fancies Buywise (10st 11lb) and Present View (10st 9lb).
Robin Dickin has not ruled out the possibility of Restless Harry (10st 12lb) running in the Hennessy after taking up his entry in the Murphy Group Handicap Chase at Cheltenham on Saturday.
He told Racing UK: “I’ll declare him for Saturday. He is in the Hennessy and I’m hoping Richard (Whitehead, owner) will let me leave him in there.”
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