LIMERICK trainer Eric McNamara is no stranger to success at the November meeting at Cheltenham, namely through Hordago who won three consecutive times at the meeting from 2005-07, and he has three darts to fire at Prestbury Park today
Real Steel and Noble Birth take on the three-mile Paddy Power Games Handicap Hurdle (2.55) while the in-form Londonofficecallin goes for the two-mile-five-furlong Paddy Power Intermediate Handicap Hurdle (3.30).
Londonofficecallin has been in rare old form this summer/autumn, registering four wins split evenly between the flat and over hurdles.
“We had the conditional jockeys’ race on Friday as a long-term target but he didn’t make the cut unfortunately,” McNamara told The Irish Field yesterday. “We were wondering did we need to run again but it’s hard to know, as you could win and then be badly handicapped. The race he is in looks a bit more competitive but he’s in great form and ready to run for his life.”
Anyone who can clearly recall Al Boum Photo’s second Gold Cup win in 2020 will remember just how well Brian Hughes was travelling on Real Steel turning for home. The now 10-year-old has had a chequered life ever since that moment but has revelled again for McNamara, winning the Paddy Power Chase last season.
“He ran a fine race in Limerick (sixth in Munster National),” McNamara said. “It can get very testing there and he just seems to labour a bit in that ground. I’ve had it in my mind all the time to bring him back over hurdles and this was always the race I was going to do it in. He is well handicapped over hurdles in Britain (126), if he could regather some bit of spark at all.
“Noble Birth was second at Ayr, he ran really well, only beaten a half-length. He did a piece of work the other day that made up our mind that we’d go to Cheltenham because we think he has improved a bit since Ayr. He’s gone up 3lb but he is more than entitled to take his chance. Conor (McNamara, son and rider of Noble Birth) kind of rides all the In Bound Syndicate horses and they were anxious he ride him and he didn’t want to get off him as a result but it would not have been an easy decision at all (in a straight choice).”