Philip Fenton has not ruled out the Ryanair Chase at Cheltenham for Last Instalment, who completed his comeback with a tremendous victory in the Hennessy Gold Cup at Leopardstown on Sunday.
While the Betfred Cheltenham Gold Cup is the more tempting engagement at next month’s Festival, the County Tipperary trainer will also consider the Ryanair, whose chief executive is Last Instalment’s owner, Michael O’Leary.
There would also have to be enough cut in the ground for Last Instalment to run at Cheltenham as he has a history of leg problems and was off the track for nearly two years until returning last month at Thurles.
“It was a fantastic performance. We weren’t expecting that,” said Fenton.
“He’s absolutely fine today. That part of it is very important and he’s out in the paddock for a couple of hours.
“Cheltenham, if the ground is OK, is the next plan. I don’t know which race yet. We’ll wait until closer to the time.
“The Gold Cup looks the obvious one, but we’re not going to rule out the Ryanair either.”
* Champagne Fever could have a prep run ahead of the Cheltenham Festival at Navan next weekend after missing the Dr PJ Moriarty Novice Chase on Sunday.
Trainer Willie Mullins took the ante-post favourite for the Racing Post Arkle Trophy out of the Leopardstown Grade One at the final declaration stage. However, Mullins has not ruled out getting a race into him before next month’s big meeting.
“He’s fine. There’s a race for him next Sunday but we’ll see how he is during the week,” he said.
“I’d have no problems going straight to Cheltenham, though.
“He looks Arkle material.”
* Leopardstown winner Tammys Hill is unlikely to run at the Cheltenham Festival in March.
The Liam Lennon-trained nine-year-old was roundly chopped in the betting for the CGA Foxhunter Chase following his last-gasp defeat of On The Fringe in the Raymond Smith Memorial Hunters Chase.
But Lennon said: “He probably won’t go to Cheltenham as he has run two or three times over there (England) and has never produced.
“He ’ll probably go handicapping now instead.
“He’ll probably go for the Ulster National (Downpatrick, March 23) now.
“I spoke to the handicapper beforehand and he said to me he would get into that race regardless of where he finished (at Leopardstown).”
* Ruby Walsh felt he should have allowed Tidal Bay to “have gone to the front” following his second-placed finish in the Hennessy Gold Cup at Leopardstown on Sunday.
The Paul Nicholls-trained 13-year-old came from a long way back to get to within eight and a half lengths of Last Instalment, who had cut out much of the running.
But owner Graham Wylie told the Telegraph: “Ruby said he should have gone to the front.
“He stressed that Tidal Bay doesn’t feel like a 13-year-old and that there is still another big pot in him.”
Tidal Bay is now likely to be kept on ice for the Crabbie’s Grand National at Aintree until April.
Nicholls tweeted: “Very proud of Tidal Bay – fantastic run again. Eight weeks now to get him at his very best for Aintree.”
* Paul Moloney was successful in his appeal against a suspension for weighing in 3lb heavier than he weighed out for a race at Catterick on January 31.
The disciplinary panel of the British Horseracing Authority quashed the three-day ban handed to Moloney by the local stewards after he had ridden Fitandproperjob into fourth place in the Free Racedays With The Racegoers Club Novices’ Handicap Chase.
The panel noted that the extremely wet weather conditions on the day had caused all the riders in the race to weigh-in by at least 1lb over the weight at which they had weighed out, with the exception of Moloney who weighed in 3lb heavy.
However, it was noted that Moloney, as opposed to the other riders in the race, had not worn waterproof breeches or a waterproof top.
The panel also took into account that in a later race at the North Yorkshire track the clerk of scales had recommended no action should be taken when the jockeys weighed in 2lb or more heavier than that which they weighed out due to the weather, which was accepted by the stewards.
* Philip Hobbs reports Fingal Bay and Cheltenian to be on course for Cheltenham next month after their fine efforts at the weekend.
Hobbs was exceptionally pleased with Fingal Bay, who returned from a 14-month lay-off with victory in a Pertemps Hurdle qualifier at Exeter on Sunday.
The final of that series at the Festival now beckons, although he does hold an entry in the Ladbrokes World Hurdle.
“He’s absolutely fine and I was delighted with him, obviously,” said Hobbs.
“The Pertemps is the most likely race. We’ll see what the handicapper does. He’s also in the World Hurdle, but I’d have thought the Pertemps would be more likely.”
Cheltenian had his career restricted by injury after he won the Weatherbys Champion Bumper at Cheltenham in 2011, but he showed he was right back when an excellent fourth in the highly-competitive Betfair Hurdle at Newbury on Saturday.
The eight-year-old is now likely to head to the Festival and the County Hurdle.
“He’s very good. I imagine he’ll go straight to Cheltenham for the County Hurdle,” said the Somerset handler.
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