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Denman to strike Gold

Reigning Cheltenham Gold Cup hero Denman is among 19 entries for the Hennessy Gold Cup at Leopardstown on February 8.

The nine-year-old has failed to make the racecourse since his Festival heroics of last March after suffering from a fibrillating heart but he is nearing a return.

While the AON Chase at Newbury a day earlier is his comeback target, the son of Presenting has, as expected, been given an entry in the Irish showpiece a day earlier as a back-up plan.

Champion trainer Paul Nicholls would appear to have a very strong hand with Gold Cup third and Lexus casualty Neptune Collonges also featuring among the possibles, as well as stablemates Nozic and Star De Mohaison.

Lexus Chase hero Exotic Dancer could head back across the Irish Sea in an attempt to plunder another valuable prize, while fellow Jonjo O'Neill inmate Albertas Run is also entered.

Air Force One and The Listener complete the raiding party, while Thyne Again, Snowy Morning and Mister Top Notch feature among the home team.

Colm Murphy is set to test Zaarito's powers in Grade One company on the same day at the Foxrock venue following his decisive success at Punchestown recently.

The Deloitte Novice Hurdle is next on the agenda for the seven-year-old before a likely trip to the Cheltenham Festival.

Murphy reports Brave Inca to be in flying form as he goes in search of his second victory in the Toshiba Irish Champion Hurdle at Leopardstown on Sunday.

The 11-year-old returned from 18 months on the sidelines to finish second in the Hatton's Grace Hurdle at Fairyhouse back in November before taking third in the December Festival Hurdle over Christmas.

Murphy's charge, who took this Grade One prize back in 2006, has been backed in to 7/2 from 8/1 with William Hill for a repeat success over the past 48 hours and the trainer believes he is working as well as ever at home.

"He does seem as good as ever and I suppose the weather is the major factor as the more rain we get the better for us as it will inconvenience one or two of the others and won't really affect us," said Murphy.

"We'll see what happens on Sunday before making any definite plans as we will know a lot more then.

"You'd be disappointed if he couldn't be there or thereabouts if everything goes well."

Meanwhile, Selection Box who bids to become Crossgar trainer Colin McBratney's first winner of the Ulster National at Downpatrick, is likely to take part in a warm up race in Navan on Saturday.

McBratney said: "Selection Box has pleased in his recent gallops and won at Downpatrick and Down Royal. In fact his win at Down Royal on Boxing Day gave us all plenty of Christmas cheer!"

McBratney has a major plan for Selection Box. If he does not get into the Martinstown Handicap Hurdle at Navan, then he will go to Hexham, a course were McBratney has had a lot of success. The third option is to go to Fairyhouse on Saturday week.

Belfast Telegraph


From Belfast Telegraph