British trainers snub Leopardstown battle before Cheltenham war
British participation at Leopardstown's inaugural Dublin Racing festival next month is likely to be thin on the ground, as only eight British-trained runners were entered for the eight Graded races across the two-day fixture.
Paul Nicholls declined to make any entries, while reigning champion trainer Nicky Henderson has only given Champion Hurdle favourite Buveur D'Air the option of the Grade 1 BHP Insurance Irish Champion Hurdle as a back-up.
Henderson said: "It's very speculative because the idea is to go to Sandown for the Contenders Hurdle, but it could freeze up over here and be clear there, you never know. The timing is correct but it's only a fallback."
Buveur D'Air – who could face Faugheen if he travelled to Ireland – is part of a strong Cheltenham Festival team for Henderson, and while impressed by Leopardstown's new meeting, the trainer was not tempted to make plans that included the fixture for his other stars.
"I don't want Might Bite to go over there and I don't need to be travelling over there at the moment," he said. "It's a pity as I'm full of admiration for them, it's a great racecourse and fantastic prize-money.
"We'll have a dust-up at Cheltenham, but not on their terms."
Colin Tizzard also opted against making any entries, and said: "We're concentrating on Cheltenham and getting all our good horses ready for that."
Leopardstown chief executive Pat Keogh was not downhearted by the lack of British runners, suggesting that only the very best would be able to wrest away prize-money from the home team.
He said: "The first thing I will say is that we did communicate the festival to all the relevant trainers in Britain and got a great reaction from them. They all loved the initiative and especially the prize-money.
"Right now there is just great strength and depth in Ireland and I think they all realise that it will take a very, very good horse to win each of the races. We would love to have more British runners but at the moment we have some great owners in Ireland which is keeping a lot of the best horses here.
"It goes in cycles and I am sure that it will change in the coming years at some stage."
Defi Du Seuil could make comeback at Leopardstown
The Irish Champion Hurdle is a potential destination for Defi Du Seuil, who has not been sighted since finishing fourth of five on his seasonal reappearance at Ascot in November.
Last season the five-year-old carried all before him in the juvenile division, culminating with Grade 1 wins in the Triumph Hurdle and then 4-Y-O Hurdle at Aintree's Grand National meeting.
Commenting on the Ascot performance, Trainer Philip Hobbs said on Tuesday: "His scopes weren't good afterwards but he seems alright now."
Regarding the Leopardstown entry, Hobbs added: "At this stage it's a possible and no more than that."
One British-trained runner who is on course to run is Simply Ned as he featured among the entries for the Grade 2 Coral Dublin Steeplechase.
The 11-year-old secured his first Grade 1 at Leopardstown last month, a race he was awarded after suffering interference from Min, who was first past the post but then demoted to second. The pair could clash again in the €100,000 race on February 3.
Min's stablemate Yorkhill may also press his Champion Chase claims in the race, and Richards said on Tuesday: "It'll be a very good race.
"Hopefully Simply Ned will go over there and run a good race and we'll all enjoy it. We gave him a few days break after his Christmas win, he had a little bit of work this morning and we'll bring him back to the boil and hopefully he'll be ready to rock and roll."
Simply Ned has made several successful trips to Ireland, and Richards thinks the fixture will be a success.
"Leopardstown are very forward-thinking and they seem to get it right a lot more times than they get it wrong," the trainer added. "They do a great job looking after you when you're there and it's a great experience."
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