Bolger keen on Crystal Cup

Legendary Irish trainer Enda Bolger has given his full backing to the Crystal Cup race series which starts next year.

The Crystal Cup European Cross Country Challenge is a new initiative for 2010 that will bring together the finest international horses and riders to reward the most successful stable in cross country steeple chasing.

The 10-race series starts in Pau (France) and includes both the Gran Premio di Merano (Merano - Italy) and the Velka Pardubicka (Pardubice - Czech Republic), before culminating at Cheltenham next December.

Bolger told "The Crystal Cup is a really exciting concept for cross country racing and we will be doing our very best to support it.

"We'll sit down in the next few weeks to figure out the dates of all the races and look at what it means in terms of travel and start to put some plans in place. As long as our owners are keen to have runners we'll certainly support the series.

"I'd have no qualms about taking horses to Merano and Pardubice if they were run in the November each year. But to plan for races in late September (Gran Premio di Merano) and early October (Velka Pardubicka), we would have to start to work with our horses in June, which would make for a long and hard year in terms of keeping them on the go.

"We've always set out our stall for the Cheltenham and Punchestown Festivals, it would mean juggling around some of the race plans for our horses, but it might well be possible."

Stable flag bearers Garde Champetre and L'Ami seem destined for their usual targets this season, but which horse will join Heads Onthe Ground at Cheltenham in December is still undecided.

Drombeag, another to carry the colours of JP McManus, is set to be aimed at the PP Hogan Memorial Chase at Punchestown in February. Bolger said: "Drombeag's best run is his first run, therefore we won't run him until February at Punchestown in the PP Hogan Memorial Chase."

However, two Howardstown House inmates - General Striker and Freneys Well - could both seek prizes further afield in the coming months.

Bolger explained: "General Striker is a high-class horse, his owner is very keen to have a runner in the Velka Pardubicka and it had been the plan previously to run him there before he suffered a leg injury. We'll look at a point-to-point in either December or January.

"Freneys Well ran over hurdles at Punchestown and might go to Cheltenham in December, he's very much a La Touche Cup horse, but also a candidate for the Velka Pardubicka," he added.

Two horses very much for the future are the five-year-olds Zest For Life and Outlaw Pete.

Bolger explained: "Zest For Life is highly talented. At home he jumps very well and you would put him up there at the top in terms of his ability, but it has been a different story when he has performed on the racecourse. We'll aim him at the Ladies Cup race (Sean Breen Memorial Steeplechase for the Ladies Perpetual Cup) at Punchestown.

"Outlaw Pete is another one for whom we'll take things slowly. It is all about taking your time, giving them an education and preparing them for the future," Bolger concluded.

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