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Taquin to be targeted at Cheltenham prize in bid to emulate Dancer

Taquin Du Seuil and Aidan Coleman after Cheltenham triumph last month
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The Jonjo O’Neill-trained Taquin Du Seuil is on course for the Grade 3 Caspian Caviar Gold Cup at Cheltenham on Saturday when he will bid to emulate the stable's Exotic Dancer, who ten years ago doubled up in the valuable handicap after winning the Paddy Power Gold Cup.

Taquin Du Seuil finished with gusto up the hill in November to deny longtime leader Village Vic close home and the pair are set to clash again.

O’Neill’s assistant Guy Upton said: “Taquin Du Seuil is in great form and is all set for Cheltenham on Saturday but, like many others, we could have done with a drop more rain. However, there aren't that many options for a horse rated as high as him coming up so he'll take his chance.

“Exotic Dancer won the Paddy Power ten years ago and went on to take this race, so it can be done, and the hope is Taquin Du Seuil can emulate him. I think the more galloping nature of the New course, which they'll be using at the weekend, will be in his favour.”

Village Vic is in fine heart for the defence of his crown, according to Richard Johnson.

His rider said in his Betway blog: “He won the race last year and has come out of last month’s excellent run really well, and absolutely loves it at Cheltenham.

"It’s amazing they may have to water at this time of year and we’d ideally prefer good to soft ground. But the softer it gets the harder it is to concede weight, so it isn’t a worry at the moment.

"It will be another competitive race but I'd like to think we'll put up another bold show.”

Kylemore Lough’s trainer Kerry Lee is waiting until later in the week to decide if he heads to Cheltenham or waits 24 hours for the Grade 1 John Durkan Memorial Punchestown Chase.

The seven-year-old narrowly went under on his comeback at Ascot last month and Lee said: “I'm slightly concerned they're watering, and the matter will be fully discussed with his owners Mick McMahon and Denis Gallagher in a couple of days or so.”       

Cheltenham clerk of the course Simon Claisse said on Monday: “We're selectively watering the chase and hurdles courses on the New course, with the forecast ahead of Friday and Saturday stating we'll get only 2mm of rain this week.

“It's only the second time in 18 years since I've officiated at the course we've had to do so. That was in December 2003, when we had to race on the Old course as the ground was so dry and cracked on the New.

“We've had 50mm of rain since the beginning of November and the going on the chase and hurdles courses is officially good (selectively watering) and on the cross-country course it is good to firm and firm in places (selectively watering)."

Claisse said there is no chance of Friday’s cross-country race being cancelled, as was the case in November.

“We have watered the cross-country significantly since then and the race will be staged this time around,” he declared.

Taquin Du Seuil is in great form and is all set for Cheltenham on Saturday but, like many others, we could have done with a drop more rain
E.W. Terms