Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Home gallop to decide Synchronised next target

Synchronised, strongly fancied for the Irish Hennessy Gold Cup at Leopardstown on February 12 and a lively each-way hope for the Betfred Cheltenham Gold Cup just over a month later, will have a crucial gallop at trainer Jonjo O'Neill's Jackdaws Castle gallops to decide whether or not he is ready to take in the big Irish Grade 1 event, writes Elliot Slater.

O'Neill has made no secret of his concern that the surprise Lexus Chase winner has not fully recovered from his exertions in the Leopardstown contest on December 28, and will not allow him to travel back to Ireland if he feels the horse is anywhere short of his best. The gallop should clarify O'Neill's mind one way or the other, with the JP McManus-owned nine-year-old also having a date in the John Smith's Grand National at Aintree in mid-April pencilled in on his calendar. Anyone following the latest Cheltenham Festival odds will be keeping a close eye on which path he decides to take.

Prior to his impressive eight-length defeat of Rubi Light last time out over three miles, most people had viewed the gelded son of Sadler's Wells as no more than a classy staying handicapper, but in making the jump to Grade 1 winner he is now being taken far more seriously having shown he has the cruising speed to mix it with top three-mile performers when the ground is riding soft or heavy.

It's fair to say that on a better surface Synchronised would almost certainly be lacking the necessary gears to lay up with the likes of Long Run and Kauto Star, but should the ground come up soft at Cheltenham he is more likely than most to be putting in his best work at the finish, up the hill over the testing three-and-a-quarter-mile track. A 3/1 shot should he take his chance in the Irish Hennessey, Synchronised is a top price 12/1 fourth-favourite for the Cheltenham Gold Cup itself, behind last year's winner Long Run (9/4).

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