Warren Greatrex will choose Aintree over Cheltenham for La Bague Au Roi this spring, after her laudable run on what turned out to be unsuitable ground at Leopardstown.
Greatrex’s dual Grade One-winning mare still has entries in the Cheltenham Gold Cup and Ryanair Chase, but is instead bound for Aintree’s Betway Bowl following her tough performance to finish fifth in Sunday’s Irish Gold Cup.
She travelled to Ireland partly in search of a sounder surface than has been on offer through an especially wet winter at home – but came unstuck on that score when a watering programme and morning rain combined to produce more testing conditions than many anticipated.
Greatrex nonetheless had no complaints, either with La Bague Au Roi or his Irish hosts.
“She’s come back in great nick, all good,” said the Lambourn trainer.
“She ran very well, and I was very happy with her.
“It wasn’t ideal for me that it turned soft – it rained, and obviously they watered all morning to make sure it was on the soft side.
“I can understand that, but it didn’t suit me.”
Concerns were expressed by several high-profile Irish trainers about drying ground during day one of the Dublin Racing Festival – but by day two, the feature race was run on a significantly softer surface.
“They’re not going to listen to me, just because I want better ground,” added Greatrex.
“It’s a big Festival, and the powers that be in Ireland wanted softer ground – which is fair enough.
“We took our chance. She ran very well – but I know on better ground, she’d have been a lot closer.
“There were five of them there turning in, and she’s stuck at it, put her head down and galloped all the way to the line.”
La Bague Au Roi had revelled in controversially quick conditions at the same meeting a year earlier, when she won the Flogas Novice Chase.
Twelve months on, it was a different story as she failed to quicken but kept on admirably behind several Gold Cup hopefuls.
“It was what it was – but whether I would think about taking her over next year, knowing what the ground will be like now, may be a different matter,” said Greatrex.
“I’m very proud of her, and we’ll move on to the next race – which I would say would be Aintree.
“I hope we get a bit of better ground (there). I suppose most people will be either going to Cheltenham or Punchestown – so you never know, it might just be a race she can go for.”
La Bague Au Roi did enough in Ireland to vindicate her presence and encourage Greatrex for future Grade One ventures.
“Although she was 12 lengths behind, it proves she should have been in that race – and she ran great, and I’m chuffed to bits,” he said.
“It’s one of those things. We live to fight another day, and she’s taking her races very well – which is brilliant.
“It will be Aintree (next) – and if it’s not Aintree, it might be Punchestown.
“I think she now definitely wants three miles, and that will help her.”