Salmon impresses in Lexus success

Beef Or Salmon is now as low as 7-1 for the totesport Cheltenham Gold Cup after an impressive success in the Lexus Chase at Leopardstown.

Ladbrokes make him the joint second favourite behind Kicking King after he took the Christmas showpiece for a third time following wins in 2002 and 2004.

Kicking for home after the second-last fence, Paul Carberry let the 9-10 market leader stride on into the home straight and the pair came home a cosy four lengths ahead of War Of Attrition (11-4).

Forget The Past was 11 lengths back in third followed another two lengths away by John Smith’s Grand National winner Hedgehunter.

But Beef Or Salmon was the star of the show, and although he lowered the colours of Best Mate in the Grade One contest 12 months ago, he looked much more the finished article with an almost flawless round of fencing.

“He was impressive – that is all I can say,” said Hourigan. “He hasn’t let me down.

“That is the first time he has jumped that well since before he fell at Cheltenham (in the 2003 Gold Cup).”

That fall in the blue riband left Beef Or Salmon, who was still a novice at the time, with a back injury that has troubled him to some degree ever since.

Hourigan blamed that problem for his jumping in the 2004 Gold Cup when he stayed on strongly up the hill while he was pulled up at Cheltenham last March when the yard was in poor form.

However, with Hourigan revealing his stable star is not having to be administered the same level of care for his back, it is all systems go for the most coveted prize in jump racing.

“He is not getting as much physio as last year,” Hourigan continued. “He is an easy horse to train and has won more Grade One’s than most.

“Often the best horse to run in the race does not win the Gold Cup but he certainly has the potential to do so.”

Carberry is also dreaming of the Festival, and said: “He gave me a great feel all of the way and he jumped great.

“He sprinted away from them at the last and the only mistake he made was probably my fault – I did not help him into it.

“It is now fingers crossed and thumbs up for Cheltenham.”

Beef Or Salmon is now likely to head back to Leopardstown on February 12 for the Hennessy Cognac Gold Cup when he could again lock horns with the other placed horses, although Mouse Morris was tight-lipped about plans for War Of Attrition.

The six-year-old emerged with great credit in second following a lacklustre run when finishing well down the field at Punchestown just 17 days ago.

Morris said: “It was a good run after such a bad run two weeks ago, but I don’t know where he will go next.”

Hedgehunter’s trainer Willie Mullins has the Hennessy firmly on the agenda for his charge with the ultimate aim of back-to-back wins in the Grand National.

“We ended up making the running but I was very happy with him and he jumped great,” said Mullins.

“He stayed on well once he got his second wind and was as fit as I can get him at home.

“This will have put him right for the Hennessy and that is what I am looking forward to now – the ground should suit him more at that meeting too.

“The Gold Cup is still an option. We will have to sit down and talk about it but the time space between the Hennessy and the Grand National looks perfect, while the Gold Cup might be a bit too close.”


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