Lieutenant to avoid Champs

by Michelle Fortune , 21 March 2012

First Lieutenant could go for the Punchestown Guinness Gold Cup to avoid a clash with Sir Des Champs at the Irish National Hunt meeting.


Both horses are owned by Michael O'Leary's Gigginstown House Stud and with the owner keen to keep them apart they are likely to have different end of season targets.

First Lieutenant was beaten two-and-a-half lengths by Bobs Worth as he attempted to win the RSA Chase but the lack of a race over two-and-a-half miles means he is likely to be given an entry in the Gold Cup.

"All the Cheltenham horses are A1," said Morris. "I hope First Lieutenant will go to Punchestown but which race I'm not sure as he obviously won't run in the same race as Sir Des Champs.

"I don't think there's a two-and-a-half-mile Grade One at Punchestown so he'll probably have an entry in the Irish (Guinness) Gold Cup.

"We'll just keep our options open for the time being.

"A few of Michael's older horses have had problems but he's fortunate enough to have to worry about keeping his best apart."

First Lieutenant could be joined in the Guinness Gold Cup by stable companion China Rock.

Morris' nine-year-old was found wanting in the stamina department in the Gold Cup at Cheltenham but the trainer believes ground conditions may have contributed to his poor finish.

While the watered ground may have been an issue, Morris has revealed the Ryanair Chase could be his preferred target next year.

"He just doesn't get the trip when it gets soft so he might be a Ryanair horse for next year rather than the Gold Cup," said Morris. "Once they put so much water on we knew we may as well go home.

"He'll go to Punchestown and he'll either run in the Gold Cup or there's a two-and-a-half-mile handicap that he could run in.

"He's got plenty of toe and he jumps super, but he probably just lacked a bit of match practice as he didn't run in the first half of the season."

Meanwhile the trainer is considering running Four Commanders in the Ladbrokes Irish Grand National at Fairyhouse on April 9.

Four Commanders ran impressively to finish third in the Diamond Jubilee National Hunt Chase at the Cheltenham Festival and Morris believes the run will stand him in good stead for the Irish National.

"If he's OK, and he is so far, he'll probably get an entry in the Irish National," said Morris.

"He went up 2lb so he'll be knocking on the door to get in but he wouldn't be guaranteed. If he didn't get in, I'm not sure if we'd think about the Scottish National.

"He's only six so hopefully we'll be thinking of Aintree in the future."

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