Joncol out for season
PAUL Nolan's Joncol will not race again this season after sustaining a tendon injury in last week's Lexus Chase.
The seven-time winner -- including twice at Grade One level -- disappointed when finishing almost 50 lengths off surprise winner Synchronised at Leopardstown and yesterday Paul Nolan confirmed the setback.
"We had the horse scanned this morning and it has shown he has a 10 per cent hole in a hind tendon," he said.
"We now have a valid reason for his lacklustre performance in the Lexus, but, unfortunately, it means the horse is out for the rest of the season."
Nolan initially looked towards the continually drying ground as a reason for the below-par performance of his stable star who is a known mud-lover. However, the injury has now been pinpointed.
"Straight after the race we thought the ground hadn't helped him, but he's a Grade One winning chaser and considering he was beaten going to the first fence, there had to be more to it than that."
Indeed, Nolan suggested that the now nine-year-old could have sustained the injury before even jumping the first fence in the 3m contest.
"To be honest, I've only feared running him on better ground because he is such a big horse. He's worked on better ground and worked fine, so I had a fair idea it couldn't have just been the ground the other day," he said. "He was in trouble from the first, so the injury must have happened running down to that.
"It's a serious injury, but it could have been worse, and we'll just have to give him some time now and see where we are.
"It's very disappointing as I was so looking forward to the season with him, but I'd be hopeful he'll be back for next season."
On a more positive note for the Wexford outfit, last year's Cheltenham Festival winner Noble Prince is being geared back at the March meeting, but with a bigger target in mind.
Having finished second to Big Zeb twice this season, Nolan is looking ahead to stepping the Jewson Chase winner back up in trip.
"He's finished second again (at Leopardstown), but we were delighted with the run and obviously he is going to benefit from a step up in trip. Having said that, Tony (McCoy) got off him the other day and said it would also have suited him better if they'd gone a faster pace."
Nolan insisted that Noble Prince won't be getting multiple entries at the Festival as a number of horses do and the 2m5f Ryanair, over the same distance as the Jewson Chase he won last year, would be his sole engagement.
"The Ryanair Chase will be his target and his only entry at Cheltenham," he said.
"I'll have a chat with the owner in the next couple of days and decide whether he's going to run again before Cheltenham and if he is, where that will be."
Nolan concluded: "There are options for him over all sorts of different trips, so I'll have a chat with the owner and see which way we're going to go."
Meanwhile, another horse many punters are eagerly awaiting is the Dessie Hughes-trained Minsk.
The former John Oxx-trained four-year-old is highly touted to be the country's most promising juvenile hurdler this season, despite yet to jump a hurdle in public.
Hughes has failed to rush owner Barry Connell's exciting purchase and Hughes predicts his debut over obstacles within the next month.
"He'll probably be running in a month to five weeks' time," he said.
"He was racing on the flat all summer so we gave him a bit of a break when we got him about six weeks ago.
"We're just starting to train him properly now -- we're hoping to get two runs into him before Cheltenham."