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Arvika Ligeonniere and Ruby Walsh

Arvika Ligeonniere: Ruby Walsh is likely to miss ride in Saturday's race

  PICTURE: Patrick McCann (  

Townend ready for Ligeonniere service

PAUL TOWNEND is on standby to again ride leading Racing Post Arkle contender Arvika Ligeonniere when the Willie Mullins-trained novice bids to advertise his Cheltenham claims at Leopardstown on Saturday.

With Cheltenham's stellar card the same afternoon odds-on to take place thanks to welcome respite from the snow and ice, Walsh looks set to travel to Britain, where Sanctuaire in the rearranged Victor Chandler Chase will be among his rides.

The likely absence of Tidal Bay from the Argento Chase is a blow to Walsh, but he is jocked up for Kauto Stone (Cleeve Hurdle), Irish Saint (Triumph Hurdle trial) and Pacha Du Polder (Grade 3 handicap chase).

Walsh will likely be ruing the moving of the Frank Ward Solicitors Arkle Chase at Leopardstown to the Saturday of the two-day meeting, with the track concerned with the rain forecast over the next two days, but for which he would have been able to ride Arvika Ligeonniere as well as Hurricane Fly on Sunday.

Mullins said on Thursday: "Paul rode the horse to win the Racing Post Novice Chase at Leopardstown's Christmas meeting, when Ruby was at Kempton, and he'll ride him on Saturday, if Ruby is unavailable."

An update from the track on Thursday confirmed that further rain is expected on Friday. The ground on the chase track and the outside hurdles track, which will be used on Saturday, was described as soft, soft to heavy in places.

The inside hurdles track, over which the BHP Insurance Irish Champion Hurdle will be run on Sunday, was soft, yielding in places.

Nessa Joyce, racing and operations manager at Leopardstown, said: "We're expecting rain on Friday but Saturday is to be mainly dry and bright, with the chance of rain on Saturday night. Sunday is expected to be a mixture of showers and sunny spells."

Arvika Ligeonniere, who was on Thursday among the entries unveiled for the Jewson Novices' Chase at Cheltenham in March, as well as the Racing Post Arkle, is a best-priced 4-6 with Boylesports for the Irish Arkle.

Leon Blanche, head of communications at Boylesports, said: "Arvika Ligeonniere has impressed this season and looks like a strong contender for the Arkle at the Cheltenham Festival.

"He is odds on to march past the post first on Saturday, and 10-1 to then go on and complete a memorable double at Cheltenham."

Second favourite at Leopardstown is Oscars Well at 11-4, with Twilight 7-1 and Benefficient 12-1.

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