Travel frustration for Noel Meade as he seeks Cheltenham glory with Texas Jack
Noel Meade is facing an anxious wait due to the current adverse weather to see if Texas Jack makes it over to Cheltenham for the Caspian Caviar Gold Cup.
Meade, who trained the last Irish winner of the race in Sir Oj in 2005, had hoped Texas Jack would have set sail to Gloucestershire on Thursday afternoon but the crossing was aborted.
The nine-year-old has kept some exalted company over fences in his time, beating subsequent Gold Cup winner Lord Windermere as a novice, and he will be running in only his second ever handicap.
He has been to Cheltenham once before when seventh of 15 behind Tony Martin's ill-fated Benefficient in the Jewson Novices' Chase at the Festival in 2013.
"Our biggest problem at the moment is getting to Cheltenham, with the bad weather affecting transport," said Meade on Thursday.
"He was supposed to be going on the boat today but he wasn't able to go because of the weather. We are going to try again tonight. If that doesn't work out, we will try again tomorrow morning."
Irish Cavalier has been given the green light to take his chance after blood tests returned all-clear.
A Cheltenham Festival winner in March, Irish Cavalier moved smoothly into contention in last month's Paddy Power Gold Cup before being swamped after the final fence and fading into fifth.
Trainer Rebecca Curtis has endured a quiet spell of late and has yet to saddle a runner in December after an issue related to feed led to her shutting up shop for a brief period, but she is hopeful the problem has been solved.
Curtis said: "His bloods have come back fine and he'll run on Saturday. We tested about 20 horses altogether and all the tests suggest they are coming back to normal, hopefully.
"The Romford Pele will go to Cheltenham on Friday and we'll have a runner at Bangor and we'll see how they get on."
Other news which emerged at declaration time was that Richard Johnson prefers the claims of Village Vic over Champagne West of the Philip Hobbs-trained pair. Tom O'Brien rides Champagne West.
A total of 15 have been declared, including Paddy Power winner Annacotty, who is aiming to be the first horse since Exotic Dancer in 2006 to win both of Cheltenham's pre-Christmas features.
Annacotty's trainer Alan King also runs Turn Over Sivola.
Paddy Power runner-up Buywise attempts to finally land a big one, this time under Adam Wedge in the absence of the injured Paul Moloney.
Third in the Paddy Power, Sound Investment, carries top weight for Paul Nicholls, who also runs Art Mauresque. Johns Spirit, the Paddy Power hero in 2013, is back again, while Nigel Twiston-Davies' Little Jon will attempt to follow up a recent win at Newbury.
There are two Irish runners, with the Willie Mullins-trained Mozoltov joining Texas Jack.
Tenor Nivernais attempts to back up his impressive Ascot win, with Doctor Phoenix and Shantou Magic also declared.