Noble Prince: Normans Grove Chase next on the agenda for Ryanair hopePICTURE: Patrick McCann (racingpost.com/photos)
Fairyhouse next for Ryanair hope Prince
NOBLE PRINCE, winner of last season's inaugural Grade 2 Jewson Novices' Chase, looks set to limber up for a return to Cheltenham and a tiltat the Grade 1 Ryanair Chase with a run at Fairyhouse later this month.
Trainer Paul Nolan has the £260,000 contest in mind for the eight-year-old, who finished runner-up to Big Zeb in the Grade 1 PaddyPower Dial-A-Bet Chase at Leopardstown on December 27, but he will head to Fairyhouse first.
Des Sharkey's eight-year-old heads Paddy Power's Ryanair market at 5-1 and Nolan said: "Hopefully, Noble Prince will run in the Ryanair Chase. He goes for the Normans Grove Chase at Fairyhouse on January 22 and that will be his final run before he heads to Cheltenham.
"We were very pleased with him at Leopardstown. Big Zeb beat us easily in the end but it was a very good run from our horse and I think that he will improve with a faster pace. He's still a decent enough two-mile chaser but two miles and five furlongs around Cheltenham is right up his street.
"He travelled and jumped well in the Jewson Novices' Chase last season. The Ryanair will obviously be a different gravy this time and it looks like it will be a very competitive contest."
There are 38 entries for the Ryanair Chase which will this year be run on March 15 including last year's winner Albertas Run and the second home that day Kalahari King.
The 11-year-old was last seen in action when pulled up before the ninth obstacle in the Amlin 1965 Chase at Ascot in November and is a 16-1 chance with Power.
Trainer Ferdy Murphy said: "Kalahari King is fine and back in work and I'm very happy with him. He's been back cantering for a couple of weeks after the vets said that he's okay.
Ferdy Murphy: would like to get a run into Kalahari King before MarchPICTURE: Martin Lynch
"I'd like to get a run into him but we'll see how it goes and if he comes really good in the second week of February. If not he'll go straight to Cheltenham.
"He cracked a splint bone and had a slight fracture but luckily Graham [Lee] pulled him up in time."
Further notable entries include Captain Chris and his stablemate Wishfull Thinking, runner-up to Noble Prince in last season's Jewson, Kauto Stone, the Nicky Henderson-trained Riverside Theatre and Great Endeavour, winner of the Paddy Power Gold Cup at Cheltenham in November.
Noble Prince is one of 14 Irish-trained entries in the 2m 5f contest with others engaged including the Robbie Hennessy-trained Rubi Light, winner of the Grade 1 John Durkan Memorial Chase at Punchestown in December and second-favourite for the race at 6-1.
Hennessy said: "There is not abother with Rubi Light after Leopardstown and he is in great form. He had a week off out in the paddocks after the race to freshen him up.
"The ground there was a little bit quicker than he would likeas his best form is on heavy ground. He'll go on that ground but he's better on heavy.
"But overall I was happy with the run as you always have to respect horses brought over by Jonjo O'Neill and JP McManus and ridden by Tony McCoy. He was runner-up and finished best of the Irish."
After his Lexus outing, the trainer mentioned going for the Hennessy Gold Cup at Leopardstown on February 12 or the Red Mills Chase at Gowran Park on February 18 and he has now decided on the latter.
Hennessy continued: "At this point he'll go for the Red Mills as he won that race last year and we'll keep the plan the same.
"He was third in the Ryanair last year but the only thing is if it was soft I'd be a lot more confident. But it looks like he is a better horse this year and he has grown into himself and seems to have improved.
"If he can improve on last year's run he has a serious chance."