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Although the meeting scheduled for Cork on Sunday has been cancelled due to flooding, only a deluge tonight will prevent Naas and Thurles staging meetings tomorrow ahead of the surviving Sunday session at Fairyhouse.

Further encouragement that the fortnight break without Irish racing will be at an end emanated yesterday from Naas and Fairyhouse, where both venues were reported ready to resume after the frost and snow impasse.

“Thankfully, we're perfectly raceable as we speak. We're a small bit nervous about the forecast for heavy rain on Friday night, but it will take a lot to stop us,” said Naas manager Tom Ryan at lunchtime.

“Pierce Molony rang me from Thurles earlier this week to see if he could opt for postponing from Thursday until Saturday as well and I didn't have a problem with that arrangement,” added fellow Tipperary native Ryan.

Fairyhouse manager Caroline Gray likewise was happy that the chase course, which had been giving cause for concern, was deemed fit for Sunday's action, which features the Normans Grove Chase, when inspected yesterday.

It's no surprise that the going will be heavy at all three tracks as the sport attempts to make up for lost opportunities with a schedule of six fixtures in as many days, before the two-day Leopardstown session next weekend.

Meanwhile, the formidable Paul Nicholls-Ruby Walsh team have two more Cheltenham Festival ante-post favourites, as well as Kauto Star in the Gold Cup, following yesterday's publication of entries for the Champion Chase and the Ryanair Chase.

Their opponents will hardly be encouraged by the strong hand which Britain's champion trainer has in each of these Grade One features, for which title holder Master Minded and course specialist Poquelin head the betting lists.

Currently recovering from rib injuries, Master Minded is no better than 6/4 to follow only Badsworth Boy (1983-'85) into the festival record books as a triple scorer in the Queen Mother Champion Chase.

Stable companion Twist Magic, who defeated prime Irish hopes Forpadydeplasterer (second) and Big Zeb (fourth) in the Tingle Creek at Sandown last month, is currently on the 8/1 mark.

Belfast Telegraph


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