Martin Brassil is expecting stable star City Island to bounce back from his disappointing chasing debut with the Ballymore winner possibly returning to action at Punchestown this weekend.
The exciting seven-year-old edged out the high-class Champ when scoring at last year’s Cheltenham Festival and big things were expected when he took to fences for the first time at Leopardstown’s Christmas meeting.
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City Island never got motoring, however, with a mistake at the second fence setting the tone for an underwhelming effort as Mark Walsh was forced to pull him up after another blunder at the second last.
The Court Cave gelding may bid to get his season back on track this Sunday and Grand National-winning Brassil is confident he will show his true colours.
“He’s good and he’s going to get an entry in the Grade Three (Killiney) novice chase at Punchestown on Sunday. Everyone has a different reason for why he ran like he did over Christmas. I’ve been happy enough with him since, anyway,” he said.
The Kildare trainer has another Cheltenham prospect on his hands with Longhouse Poet likely to take the same route as City Island and vie for the Ballymore after a decent showing when third behind Envoi Allen at Naas last Sunday.
“We’ve got to be happy with how our fellow ran. We’ll see how he comes out of it, because he had a hard enough race. We’ll probably enter him for the two-mile-six Grade One at Leopardstown (Dublin Racing Festival), but he could go straight for the Ballymore. He wouldn’t have any problem staying,” Brassil said.
The injury-plagued Douvan is one horse which definitely won’t make it to next month’s Dublin Racing Festival (February 1-2), however, but Willie Mullins (left) is confident that the 10-year-old could yet make Cheltenham.
Douvan made a sparkling return from a 569-day layoff when scoring with his old verve at Clonmel in November but subsequently picked up a minor leg problem which has seen him on the easy list, although the Cheltenham and Punchestown Festivals are still on his radar.
Meanwhile, the globe-trotting mare Magic Wand looks set to continue her remarkable world tour this year with the familiar surroundings of America’s Gulfstream Park and this month’s lucrative Pegasus World Cup meeting her next port of call.
Aidan O’Brien has earmarked the Pegasus World Cup Turf on January 25 – a race she was second in last year – as her first target having run a brave race when just touched off in the Hong Kong Cup last month.
Elsewhere, veteran trainer John Nicholson has reluctantly called time on his training career with the Tipperary handler, 65, citing a shortage of stable staff as the main reason for the closure of his Thurles yard.