sport

Russell on standby for Morning

Davy Russell is on standby for the ride on leading RSA Chase contender Morning Assembly at the Cheltenham Festival.

The Grade One-winning hurdler has won twice from three starts over fences and was far from disgraced when narrowly denied by Carlingford Lough in the Topaz Novice Chase at Leopardstown in December.

Ruby Walsh has been ever-present in the saddle this season and although trainer Pat Fahy is not giving up hope he could be available at Prestbury Park, he has Russell waiting in the wings, with Walsh likely to partner RSA Chase favourite Ballycasey for his boss Willie Mullins.

Fahy said: "We've booked Davy to ride the horse on the understanding that if Ruby became available, which I know looks slim at this stage, then things could change.

"We're leaving the door open for Ruby as he has ridden him all season and knows the horse well, but if Davy rides, we'll be 100 per cent happy.

"The horse seems in great form. Davy came to school him on Wednesday and things went very well.

"He'll do his last bit of work next week, so fingers crossed all goes well."

While the RSA Chase remains Morning Assembly's preferred target, the seven-year-old does also hold an entry in the four-mile National Hunt Chase a day earlier.

"We've still got the option of the National Hunt Chase, just in case we change our minds, but at the moment we're aiming towards the RSA," said Fahy.

The County Carlow-based trainer also confirmed Russell would ride Western Boy in the Sky Bet Supreme Novices' Hurdle at Prestbury Park.

The five-year-old was narrowly denied by leading Supreme hope Vautour at Punchestown in January and is set to tackle the Mullins runner again in the Festival opener.

"Davy will definitely ride Western Boy. He's coming in to school our horses a bit more, which he couldn't before (when he was retained jockey for Gigginstown House Stud). Hopefully he'll be riding most of our better horses form now on," said Fahy.

"The form with Vautour is what is keeping us going. Fingers crossed we can get him there fresh and well and in good form."