Irish trainer, Mouse Morris, who sent out War of Attrition to be the last Irish winner of the Betfred Cheltenham Gold Cup back in 2006, is leaning towards bidding for the same race with his exciting First Lieutenant in preference to the Ryanair Chase for which he is currently the 5/1 ante-post second-favourite behind Cue Card, writes Elliot Slater.

Morris is coming around to the view that with the ground likely to be quicker at Cheltenham than has been seen for most of the season, First Lieutenant might be better suited by the longer test of the Gold Cup as opposed to taking on the speedier horses in the five-furlong shorter Grade 1 Ryanair Chase.

Speculation has been mounting recently that the taps could be turned on at Cheltenham to avoid the ground riding too fast despite Britain having experienced one of the wettest winters for some years.

On good ground at Cheltenham 12 months ago Morris’ charge put up a tremendous performance when going down narrowly to the current Gold Cup favourite Bobs Worth in a stirring finish to the Grade 1 RSA Chase over three miles. He handled the course and stayed well so stamina for the trip appears not to be an issue.

Although he’s yet to find the winners’ enclosure so far this campaign the gelded son of Presenting ran very well when third to his old rival Bobs Worth in the Hennessy Gold Cup at Newbury at the start of December, and again lost little in defeat when a very close second to the remarkable Tidal Bay in the Grade 1 Lexus Chase at Leopardstown’s Christmas fixture, caught right on the line as the veteran produced a stunning late burst.

The Gold Cup betting odds generally rate First Lieutenant a 14/1 shot to win the contest, jump racing’s blue riband event.

Don’t let the Gold Cup distract you from the racing calendar for too long; the 2013 Grand National is just around the corner, after all.

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