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Friday 15 December 2017

Salut skips Cup for Festival

Leading Paddy Power Imperial Cup fancy Salut Flo will miss Saturday's valuable handicap in favour of a trip to the Cheltenham Festival.

David Pipe's French recruit was mightily impressive on his British debut at Doncaster last weekend, making a mockery of an initial chase mark of 118 to beat Soulard by 12 lengths.

But a statement on the trainer's website read: "Salut Flo, the ante-post second favourite for this weekend's Imperial Cup at Sandown, will miss the race in favour of a crack at one of Cheltenham's handicap chases next week.

"(Salut Flo) will instead be left in the Jewson Novices' Handicap Chase on the Thursday and the Grand Annual on the Friday.

"Salut Flo will compete with just a 5lb penalty for his impressive success."

Qaspal is an intended runner, but connections face a waiting game to see if the gelding makes the final line-up.

Despite a 14lb penalty for his last victory, the Philip Hobbs-trained six-year-old needs six horses above him to come out to make the cut at Thursday's final declaration stage.

Owner JP McManus has four entries in the £70,000 feature and his racing manager Frank Berry said: "It's all up in the air and we don't know which way we're going as a few of them are in at Cheltenham as well.

"Qaspal at the bottom of ours might not get in, but he is a definite runner if he gets in. He has got a pretty big penalty, but did it nicely at Sandown.

Gary Moore has two entries, but Wade Farm Billy is also far from certain to make the cut.

"I'd like to run Wade Farm Billy and Numide," the Brighton trainer said.

"I doubt if Wade Farm Billy would get in. The only thing is if the ground dries out it might end up scaring off a few of them. He wants fast ground so that would suit him."

Moore is hoping Numide can return to his best form. He said: "I ran him over two miles, five at Kempton the other day but it was a mistake as he didn't stay. He ran with very little enthusiasm, but since he came back from there he's woken up a lot. We're trying a few different things with him to try to rekindle his interest. I don't think you should give up on him yet."

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