Bannow is out to strike gold
Champion owner David Johnson is hoping Bannow Strand can deliver on his early promise by landing the boylesports.com Gold Cup at Cheltenham.
The David Pipe-trained gelding arrived in Britain with a tall reputation back in 2004, but failed to set the jumping world alight until sluicing home in handicap company at the Gloucestershire course last November.
That maiden victory was achieved off a mark of just 103, although Bannow Strand went on to underline his undoubted potential when outpointing the smart Supreme Serenade in novice company at Haydock in January.
Two disappointing performances rounded off the campaign, but Johnson feels his charge is not badly treated and is looking forward to a better show in this weekend's £150,000 attraction.
"Bannow Strand is definitely an intended runner and he's nicely weighted," he explained.
"He came with a big reputation from Ireland and I suppose he was slightly disappointing early on, but he won a couple of nice races last year.
"He's very, very well at home and has a nice racing weight. It's very competitive of course, but I had a little bit of an interest earlier this morning - I've had a small bet each-way."
Johnson could also be represented in Saturday's two-mile-five-furlong feature by 2005 Arkle winner Contraband, but points to Bannow Strand as his chief hope of success.
"Timmy (Murphy) rides him and he's obviously my main chance so that's probably why he's shortened up in the betting so much," he told At The Races.
William Hill and Coral would be hit hard if Bannow Strand prevails.
Both firms have seen money for Pipe's charge throughout the day, with the first-named having to cut him to 12-1 from the 33s available earlier in the day.
Coral offered 28-1 about the horse two days ago, and despite going 20-1 this morning, have also been forced to take evasive action and now make Bannow Strand a 14-1 chance.
William Hill spokesman Ben Clarke said: "The Pipe and Johnson team nearly pulled off the gamble of the year with Vodka Bleu in the Paddy Power Gold Cup and this is a very similar scenario."
Coral's Simon Clare added: "The collapse of Bannow Strand's price can partly be attributed to the defection of stablemate Commercial Flyer, who had been an 8-1 chance, but is also a reaction to some extremely shrewd money in the last 24 hours."
While running plans were yet to be confirmed for many of the big-race possibles, Nigel Twiston-Davies has declared Knowhere to be firmly on target and feels his charge can play a major role.
NAVAN'S meeting tomorrow is subject to a 7.30am inspection tomorrow.
The course is currently raceable, although there is slight concern about parts of the chase track.
No inspections are planned at this stage for the big cards at Punchestown and Cork on Sunday, with both venues heavy but raceable at the moment.