Big race options are open for Berry’s star attraction

Shutthefrontdoor ridden by Barry Geraghty (centre) wins the Irish Grand National at Fairyhouse last April. Picture: Pat Healy/PA.
Shutthefrontdoor ridden by Barry Geraghty (centre) wins the Irish Grand National at Fairyhouse last April. Picture: Pat Healy/PA.
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GOLD Cup and Grand National prospect Shutthefrontdoor is on course to return to track action in the Hennessy Gold Cup at Leopardstown on February 8.

Last season’s Irish Grand National hero made a successful reappearance in a graduation chase over an extended three miles at Carlisle in November, beating Sue Smith’s Vintage Star, and is now being prepared for a tilt at Grade One glory. The Jonjo O’Neill-trained eight-year-old holds an entry in the Betfred Cheltenham Gold Cup and is also prominent in the ante-post market for the Crabbie’s Grand National at Aintree in April.

“He’s back in good form again and hopefully he’ll make the Hennessy in Leopardstown,” said Frank Berry, racing manager to owner JP McManus.

“As for Cheltenham and Aintree, a lot will depend on how he gets on in the meantime, but he’s in good form and the plan is to go to Leopardstown with him.”

Trainer Dan Skelton has ruled out Cheltenham and is looking forward to sending Wetherby winner Three Musketeers over fences next term after the lightly-raced five-year-old impressed in winning the Neptune Investment Management Novices’ Hurdle at Warwick.

Given a fine ride by the trainer’s brother Harry, Three Musketeers ranged up menacingly rounding the home turn as the front-running Flintham began to feel the pace and kept Ballagh at bay by three-quarters of a length.

The winning trainer said: “We’ve always held him in some regard. I’ve believed in this horse from day one and when he won at Wetherby he sort of told us we were right about him.

“Cheltenham is out. He’s the type of horse you don’t want to enter or else you’d be tempted to run.”

Godolphin’s Tryster edged out Gaelic Silver in a pulsating finish to the first race at Chelmsford City.

The Essex circuit, formerly known as Great Leighs, closed in January 2009 after going into administration less than a year after it launched, but has reopened under a new name.

Wind and storm damage has forced the abandonment of today’s meeting at Ayr while tomorrow’s card at Ffos Las is another weather doubt due to waterlogging.