First Lieutenant (centre): was also entered in two races over 3m1fPICTURE: Getty Images
Lieutenant drops back to 2m for Ryanair Chase
FIRST LIEUTENANT, runner-up to Bobs Worth in the RSA Chase at the Cheltenham Festival, will drop to 2m over fences for the first time in the Grade 1 Ryanair Novice Chase at Punchestown on Thursday.
The Mouse Morris-trained seven-year-old is also entered for two Grade 1 races over 3m1f at Punchestown - the Growise Champion Novice Chase on Tuesday and thetote.com Punchestown Gold Cup on Wednesday - and the decision to run him in Thursday's race means that Davy Russell, who will be crowned champion jockey for the first time when the season ends on Saturday, will not be facing choice calls for those races.
Morris said: "For obvious reasons First Lieutenant's owner [Ryanair boss Michael O'Leary] would like to have a runner in Thursday's races and as he has nothing else entered for the race it has been decided to run First Lieutenant."
Russell added: "It's solved any selection decisions I would have to have made for the other two races and I don't think it's a bad idea.
"First Lieutenant will gain more experience racing over two miles and that will benefit him whatever route he goes next season. And let's not forget he was a Grade 1 winner over the trip as a novice hurdler last season."
The ground at Punchestown on Saturday remained good to soft, soft in places on the hurdle and chase tracks and good, good to soft in places on the cross-country course.
The track's racing manager Richie Galway said: "We've had 3mm of rain since 8am on Friday and the forecast remains very unsettled. We're talking about sunshine and showers with the possibility of more persistent rain, maybe up to 6mm between mid-day on Sunday and mid-day on Monday."