14 Feb 2011 | 19:15
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Gold first choice for MorrisHeadlines
First Lieutenant

Mouse Morris would prefer to run First Lieutenant in the Betfred Gold Cup rather than the Ryanair Chase at Cheltenham next month.

First Lieutenant, owned by Gigginstown House Stud, is second-favourite at around 9-2 for the Ryanair, while he is a general 12-1 chance for the blue riband. However, Morris feels the eight-year-old would be better suited by the longer distance of the Gold Cup.

The trainer told At The Races: "My preference with the ground drying out would be the Gold Cup. Bryan Cooper has ridden him before and he's available, so that is the way I would like to go with him. We are going to discuss it next week."

While without a victory this year, First Lieutenant has performed with credit, finishing third in the Hennessy Gold Cup at Newbury and runner-up to Kauto Stone in the Champion Chase at Down Royal and to Tidal Bay in the Lexus Chase at Leopardstown.

"He'll stay forever, it's just if he has enough toe for the Ryanair, and I don't think he would," said Morris.

"He runs above himself at Cheltenham and he's done nothing wrong this year. He's just not got his head in front. He ran well at Down Royal, he ran well in the handicap at Newbury (Hennessy) and ran a blinder at Leopardstown.

Morris is leaning towards the Ryanair for the Michael O'Flynn-owned China Rock, who found the Gold Cup distance too far last March when eighth to Synchronised before going on to win the Punchestown Gold Cup.

The trainer said: "He ran a good race in the Gold Cup last year but just didn't get home. He had a wind problem which a tongue strap appears to have fixed. He hacked up in the Punchestown Gold Cup and he ran a good race up to the last in the Lexus (fifth). He has enough toe for the Ryanair."

Morris is looking forward to running Rule The World in the Neptune Novices' Hurdle. The six-year-old, another owned by Gigginstown, is around 10-1 for the two-mile-five contest after winning three of his four starts over hurdles.

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