Ronan McNally faces a race against time to get Dreal Deal back in the best possible shape before the Cheltenham Festival.
The six-year-old booked his ticket for the opening contest of the meeting, the Sky Bet Supreme Novices’ Hurdle, with an astonishing last-to-first victory in the Moscow Flyer at Punchestown.
McNally’s small string have been hit by aspergillosis, a reaction caused by a form of mould, and he is pinning his hopes on a warmer spell of weather sparking a change in fortunes.
“The horses just aren’t firing at the moment, which is a bit of a disaster coming up to Cheltenham,” said McNally.
“They were wrong earlier in the season, we had them flying all winter and now we’ve hit a bit of a lull again which is a blow – but that’s life.
“From the week before Christmas my horses haven’t been quite right, we’ve been battling hard, getting tests done, and we aren’t out of it yet.
“The Trigger ran on Sunday and he ran OK, but I thought he’d run a bit better. We’re just having a real battle.
“I don’t think it’s the weather, I think it’s the forage we’ve been getting. When you are a small operator it’s hard to get good forage all the time, because the big boys buy it all up. I’ve found the biggest problem in racing is getting good hay and good haylage consistently.
“It only takes a bad batch to knock a horse’s respiratory system. At least we know why – in the past we might have just said we were out of form. The tests are just not coming back as good as we’d like and it’s not ideal.”
Should Dreal Deal not make Cheltenham, McNally would hope to run at one of the other big spring meetings.
“You just can’t go to Cheltenham if you are not 100 per cent, you couldn’t go at 70 or 80 per cent. There’s three weeks, though, and a lot can change in three weeks with horses, we haven’t given up,” he said.
“If he doesn’t go, there’s Aintree and Punchestown and he has options on the Flat. If he’s not 100 per cent he won’t go.
“There’s three weeks left, a lot can happen. We’re due some nice weather for the next week or so and I might just put him in the field for a few days, it’s how we got over it last year. We’ve nothing to lose.”