WARREN Greatrex says he is up for the fight as he prepares top mare La Bague Au Roi for Sunday’s Irish Gold Cup.
The nine-year-old will square up to the likes of Kemboy and Delta Work in the €250k race, which is the feature on day two of Leopardstown’s Dublin Festival.
She has winning form at the meeting, having run out a gritty winner of the Grade 1 Flogas Novices’ Chase under Richard Johnson 12 months ago.
And Lambourn-based Greatrex reckons that experience will stand her in good stead this weekend.
Greatrex told Sun Racing: “It’s a track you need to know and like, and she acted very well around there when winning the Flogas last season over 2m5f.
“It’s their Gold Cup and I’m not expecting it to be easy, I respect their big runners, but she gets the mares weight allowance which helps. I am always up for a fight.
“If you look at her form from last year, she beat Santini, Topofthegame and Lostintranslation. If she can run to that sort of level she’s bang in the mix.”
But it’s been an up and down season so far for La Bague Au Roi, who is a 20-1 shot with Ladbrokes for Sunday’s race.
She was pulled up on bottomless ground in the Charlie Hall on her reappearance and has since finished third at Huntingdon and Doncaster.
He said: “I shouldn’t have run her at Wetherby in the Charlie Hall, it rained all day and the ground was very heavy by the time the race came around.
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“She has run over 2m4f the last twice which is probably an inadequate trip for her nowadays.
“She was a good third in the Peterborough, though the spark wasn’t completely back that day. In hindsight, she had a hard season last season, and maybe she just wasn’t feeling the love for it all.
“But she took a step forward at Doncaster, where Dickie and I felt we didn’t make enough use of her from early in the straight, and she wasn’t beaten far by Lady Buttons in the end.
“She has come on again from that and she’s only had two proper races this season so the petrol tank is still full. She seems as good as ever and I still have faith.”
But if she is to gain another big win, she will have to do it without regular rider Johnson, with the champ KO’d by a broken arm last week.
Greatrex said: “There are a few jockeys in the pipeline, we haven’t nailed it down yet but we are going to go for an Irish-based jockey.
“Dickie is not easy to replace but like he says himself, she isn’t a hard horse to ride.
"The ground looks like it will be OK for her. She just doesn’t need extremes, as long as it not very soft she is fine.
“I see they’re watering which, from my point of view, is not ideal, though I can see why they are. But I couldn’t be happier with her and I think the race is well worth a crack.”