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War faces a mud battle

By Jimmy Walker

Published 09/12/2006

War of attrition puts his Cheltenham Gold Cup credentials on the line again when running the John Durkan Memorial Chase at Punchestown tomorrow.

But he should come through unscathed and justify the belief which his supporters have in him that he will score once again at the big festival in March.

War of Attrition has been overlooked somewhat by the remarkable performances of Kauto Star who has been looking like a future champion but War of Attrition has made solid progress throughout the year and although he was beaten last time out in the James Nicholson Chase at Down Royal in November, he should have enough ammunition to score tomorrow in a race in which he faces seven opponents.

Trainer Mouse Morris has stated that the ground may be too soft for War of Attrition and this is a distinct possibility for it was tacky at Down Royal when War of Attrition was only just beaten in the closing stages by Beef or Salmon.

However, the Mouse Morris horse likes Punchestown and has already won there this season although last year he put in a poor performance in the Durkan Chase and was well beaten by Hi Cloy who is in among the opposition again tomorrow.

It's obvious that War of Attrition would prefer better ground and we will see his best work in the spring but he is a horse with a lot of class and I find it difficult to see him being beaten tomorrow even though there are some fancied contenders.

However you have to ask yourself the question - are they good enough to overturn the Gold Cup winner?

Personally, I don't think so, even though Hi Cloy will run a big race but he is being aimed at the King George VI race at Kempton and it would be unrealistic to see him at his absolute peak tomorrow.

In Compliance is an interesting entry from Michael O'Brien for he was an easy winner of the Killultagh Properties Chase at Down Royal but tweaked his back and has been on the sidelines since then.

At his best he would certainly come into this as would Nickname who was all the rage at this time last year and cheered his supporters no end when winning at Navan a couple of weeks ago. Central House was second that day and Watson Lake was third after starting joint-favourite.

Watson Lake doesn't appear to have the ability to win a race like tomorrow's contest and it could be that the biggest danger to War of Attrition will be Justified trained by Eamon Sheehy who finished third and ran a blinder behind Beef or Salmon and War of Attrition at Down Royal.

Justified is an exciting horse and with Tony McCoy doing the business, it's not difficult to see him being in at the sharp end of the race.

Still it looks to me as though War of Attrition holds the best cards and he should score en-route to another tilt at the Cheltenham World Cup although he is sure to have some more Cup clash races before then.

Noel Meade has been in tremendous form all season and Leading Run would appear to have the answer to the Stallion Owners Novice Hurdle. The horse that may give him most to do is Le Toscan trained by Michael O'Brien by the in-form Ruby Walsh.

O'Brien may also be on the mark with Silent Jo ridden by McCoy in the Schwepps Handicap Hurdle.

New Dundalk track - P59.

Belfast Telegraph

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