The enforced rescheduling of the Totesport Trophy has counted against leading Irish challenger Final Approach who will now miss the race as connections aren’t happy at the prospect of travelling him back across the Irish Sea twice within the space of the week. He will instead head straight to the Cheltenham Festival where he is expected to take his chance in the Vincent O’Brien County Hurdle.
The Willie Mullins-trained five-year-old had been expected to run a big race in the feature Newbury two-mile handicap hurdle, but after two horses tragically died of suspected electric shocks in the parade ring prior to the opening race on the card, the decision was taken to abandon the rest of the fixture, the whole meeting subsequently being moved to the following Friday.
Final Approach has a progressive profile and is arguably an unexposed horse having raced just four times over timber, but last time out he showed that he could well be a force to be reckoned with in top handicap hurdles with an authoritative victory over 25 rivals in the valuable MCR Hurdle at Leopardstown in January.
His earlier efforts in winning on his hurdles bow at Downpatrick last March and in following up with a solid third place in a decent novice hurdle at Punchestown, suggested that his master trainer would be able to place him to advantage, and so it has proved. Those following the Cheltenham betting would have paid close attention to the performances.
The County Hurdle is always a fiercely competitive affair and for many years was the traditional closing event of the Cheltenham Festival when the meeting was staged over three days. Since the move to a four-day fixture it has slightly disappeared in and amongst the Triumph Hurdle and Gold Cup but is still a much sought after prize. Final Approach is generally on offer at ante-post odds of around 12/1.