Thursday 14 December 2017

'Slight setback' ends Rip's racing career

AIDAN O'BRIEN has announced the retirement of Rip Van Winkle due to a "very slight setback".

The winner of three Group One races, including this year's Juddmonte International Stakes at York, will stand alongside his sire Galileo at Coolmore Stud.

The four-year old was third favourite for the Breeders' Cup Mile at around 7-1 and a 16-1 shot for the Classic.

"He has had a very slight setback and while it is very minor it would have meant forcing him to get him to Churchill Downs. So the decision has been made to retire him," O'Brien said of Rip Van Winkle.

"Everyone knows how good I always thought he was. His big thing was his incredible speed. We knew he had that from the first day he worked."

O'Brien also revealed that Fame and Glory and Cape Blanco would miss the Breeders' Cup, although both will remain in training next year.

With Sizing Europe and Forpadydeplasterer both set to get stints over longer distances this season, Eddie Harty's Grade One-winning Captain Cee Bee could be one of Ireland's leading Champion Chase candidates and he is due to begin his season at Naas next week.

Colm Murphy's Big Zeb is set for a light campaign this year and he is the current favourite for the Cheltenham contest, with Sizing Europe second favourite despite Henry de Bromhead's current intentions.

Captain Cee Bee is a best priced 16/1 to claim the two-mile chasing crown and will begin the campaign at the track where he won his first chase.

"The Popular Square is an ideal race to start him off, being over two miles and for second season novices," Harty said of Captain Cee Bee.

"He's in good form but will need some rain to go there. Hopefully we will get some in the next week."

The Paul Nicholls-trained Celestial Halo was set to rank high in the novice chase department this season but, after the 2009 Champion Hurdle runner-up fell at the fourth last on his chasing debut at Exeter on Tuesday, returning to hurdles became an option.

However, after the horse's wellbeing was confirmed yesterday and after a discussion with jockey Ruby Walsh, owner Andy Stewart confirmed the horse would return for another chase.

"He's absolutely fine and Ruby said not to give up on him. As Ruby said, it's better to do it at Exeter than do it in the Arkle," Stewart said.

"We had a brief discussion last night and we were thinking about going two and a half miles over hurdles but we've decided to stick chasing at the moment."

Meanwhile, at Navan yesterday O'Brien unleashed promising Recital, who made a fine winning debut under Johnny Murtagh and, in doing so, left a big impression on his pilot.

O'Brien and Murtagh instigated a double on the day with the two-year-old son of Montjeu and Murtagh made some striking comments.

"It rode like a proper race and he picked up well. He's a big horse who has plenty of class. You may see him in the first week of June next year."

In mentioning the first week of June, Murtagh was referring to the Epsom Derby for which he got an opening quote of 25/1 from Ladbrokes.

Also at Navan, Ben Curtis added another vital winner to his season's tally when partnering White Diamond in the fillies handicap.

The 12/1 chance saw the youngster draw two clear of rivals Gary Carroll and Joseph O'Brien in the race to be this season's champion apprentice -- he now has 35 winners for the year.

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