Cooldine faces Trafford clash
Former Grade One winners Cooldine and Trafford Lad do battle at a far lower level in the Clonmel Festival Week Chase on Thursday.
The Willie Mullins-trained Cooldine looked destined for the top in the staying division following a brilliant performance in the 2009 RSA Chase at Cheltenham, but a string of indifferent performances since suggest he is a shadow of his former self.
Trafford Lad is in a similar boat, with injuries having hampered his progress having shown top-class form a few years ago. He has had his limitations exposed in races won by Big Zeb and Rubi Light the last twice, and trainer Lar Butler is keeping his fingers crossed this sizeable drop in grade will lead to the 10-year-old getting his head in front for the first time in over three years.
"I've been waiting to run him in a race with these conditions for a while, but there hasn't been one for him," said Butler.
"He's had a lot of injury problems and wind problems over the past couple of years. Everything that can go wrong with a horse just about has gone wrong, but I'm happy with him going into this race.
"I was happy enough with his first run back in Navan and thought he'd come on a lot for it, so we went to the John Durkan thinking he'd run a decent enough race. Unfortunately, we left the tongue-tie off him and he went and swallowed his tongue, so it's back on now.
"It's a drop in class for him, but it's still a fair race. I suppose Cooldine is in a similar position to us in that he isn't the horse he was, so we'll see what happens. It would be great to get our horse's head in front again. It would be a great start to the year."
Adding further strength to the race is the presence of Cooldine's stablemate The Midnight Club. Beaten into sixth when sent off favourite for last year's Grand National, he continues this season's preparations for the Aintree spectacular in the hands of Ruby Walsh.
Cooldine, who now runs in the colours of the trainer's wife Jackie Mullins, will be partnered by son Patrick.
Leanne and Toomdeely complete the five-runner field.