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First Lieutenant back in Cheltenham Gold Cup picture

| 13.03.2014

Gigginstown House Stud have kept their options open for the Cheltenham Gold Cup on Friday. There has been much speculation about the participation of Last Instalment who needs some cut in the ground.

First Lieutenant had been among the favourites for Thursday’s Ryanair Chase but was withdrawn at the final declaration stage. Connections faced a similar dilemma last season, eventually running him in the Ryanair and Sir Des Champs in the Gold Cup.

Both horses finished runner-up with Cue Card proving far too good, stretching clear to win by nine lengths. In the absence of Colin Tizzard’s chaser, First Lieutenant was trading at around 5-1 for the Ryanair.

The Gigginstown colours will now be carried by Rathlin, a distant third in the Grade 2 Tied Cottage Chase at Punchestown. Punters who have backed Last Instalment face a couple of anxious days before any final decision is made.

First Lieutenant was a top class novice hurdler, beating Rock On Ruby in the Neptune in 2011. He went chasing the following season and chased home Bobs Worth in the RSA Chase.

He emerged as a possible Gold Cup contender when finishing third to Nicky Henderson’s chaser in the Hennessy Gold Cup at Newbury. He was then beaten a head in a thrilling finish to the Lexus Chase at Leopardstown.

Many pundits feel there is a serious doubt about First Lieutenant getting home over three and a quarter miles at Cheltenham, although the faster ground is in his favour. His only victory over three miles came at Aintree last season on good ground when he defeated Menorah by three-quarters of a length.

After being beaten yet again by Bobs Worth last December, he was made 7-4 favourite to win the Irish Hennessy last month. In contrast to Last Instalment, he was never really travelling and eventually finished a well beaten third.

First Lieutenant is now 10-1 for the Gold Cup with Last Instalment at 6-1. Captain Chris was announced as a non-runner yesterday through injury and Harry Topper is considered doubtful.



Harvey Mayson