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Monksland dealt Cheltenham blow

By Ron McKnight

The Ulster-owned Monksland will miss next week's Cheltenham Festival.

Trainer, Noel Meade has withdrawn the horse owned by Belfast based Patricia Hunt from the Ladbrokes World Hurdle.

Monksland started his season at the Down Royal Festival in November – winning the WKD Hurdle and followed up by finishing runner-up to Zaidpour at Fairyhouse in December prior to reversing placings with that rival at Leopardstown Christmas Festival meeting.

The trainer detailed several members of his team were "under the weather".

He added: "He's good, but he's just not going to Cheltenham. We've got a bit of a problem here with a few dirty noses and temperatures and whatever, so he's not going to go.

"Liverpool is a possibility and there's Fairyhouse and Punchestown, hopefully. Any of the other places are possibilities. We'll have to see how we get on."

Meanwhile, Ruby Walsh is confident the step up to three miles will not be a problem for Annie Power when she tackles the Ladbrokes World Hurdle at Cheltenham next week.

The potential Festival target of Willie Mullins' unbeaten mare has been the subject of much debate in recent weeks, with the Champion Hurdle over two miles, the OLBG Mares' Hurdle over two and a half and the three-mile World Hurdle all considered.

Ireland's champion trainer finally confirmed on Sunday his six-year-old would step up in distance at Cheltenham, and Walsh feels connections have made the right call.

He said: "I think she will stay. Her pedigree is all stamina. She's out of an Old Vic mare and she's by Shirocco.

"The further she goes, the more it'll suit her, but you can't really be certain until she goes and does it.

"She's never run over three miles, but things had to be considered and that's where we feel she has her best chance.

"Willie has asked my opinion and everything had to be weighed up and we all felt it is the right race for her.

"There are four or five outstanding horses in the Champion Hurdle and maybe two, possibly three, in the World Hurdle."

Belfast Telegraph


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