Tombstone: may contest the Coral Cup or County Hurdle instead of Champion Hurdle
PICTURE:Caroline Norris (racingpost.com/photos)
By Tony O’Hehir and Bruce Jackson 7:28PM 1 MAR 2017
ON THE day Michael O’Leary withdrew a host of stars from the Randox Health Grand National the airline magnate’s racing operation revealed Stan James Champion Hurdle candidate Tombstone could be flown on a different Cheltenham Festival mission due to unexpectedly lenient treatment by the BHA’s British handicapping team.
O’Leary blasted head of handicapping Phil Smith for talking “drivel” when explaining his official Aintree assessment of chasers Outlander, Don Poli and Empire Of Dirt, but the Gigginstown House Stud owner seemingly feels recent Gowran winner Tombstone has been given a greater chance of beating British opposition in handicaps, in which Irish trainers made record entries over the four days.
For that reason Tombstone, a best-priced 14-1 for the Champion, for which he would have to be supplemented for £20,000, is now under consideration for the Randox Health County Hurdle and Coral Cup.
BHA handicapper David Dickinson gave the Gordon Elliott-trained seven-year-old a rating of 149 for those handicap prizes, a figure just 1lb above his Irish mark.
Gigginstown racing manager Eddie O’Leary said: “Tombstone is only 1lb higher than his new Irish mark and that opens up the possibility of him running in either the Coral Cup or the County Hurdle instead of being supplemented to the Champion. We will think about it for a bit longer before making a call.”
Intriguingly Tombstone is a bigger price for the County (16-1 with Ladbrokes) and Coral Cup (16-1 with Ladbrokes and Coral) than the Champion Hurdle, for which Gigginstown have the general 5-1 third favourite Petit Mouchoir already in their corner.
Read the full story in Thursday’s Racing Post, available on the iPad edition at 8pm this evening