POOR Tom Foley, trainer of Danoli, the one-time Champion Hurdle favourite who fell from grace when trounced in the hock-deep mud at Leopardstown earlier this week. He has received so much advice in the past few months, he has at last decided to draw the line. The likeable Foley, as genuine a character as you will find, declared hours after this most recent defeat: 'That is the last time I listen to people. In future, I am going to make up my own mind and I will not be listening to others. 'At one point, I felt that if I hadn't run that I would be letting down Leopardstown . . . but that's the last time,' the Irishman pointed out. The Danoli saga not only continues in Ireland, it has gathered momentum, if anything. The biggest question after the race was not why the gelding was beaten, but why he actually ran, considering he had been under a cloud due to coughing. A glum-faced Foley admitted: 'I made the wrong decision in running him. I listened to the vets and different things and that. But you learn by your mistakes. He is more tired after this than he was after Cheltenham, and he blew more this time.' Foley reported that Danoli had not only coughed, but that there was also signs of mucus having developed. One can only hope that the stressful experience does not have any lasting effect and that engagements in the Irish Champion Hurdle (January 22) and Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham (March 14) can be met. The next week will reveal a lot. The Michael Hourigan-trained Dorans Pride, an arch-rival of Danoli, won by a distance after taking it up after three out and then galloping relentlessly to the line. The Stayers' Hurdle, the winner's Cheltenham target, looks a realistic objective. Ladbrokes now have Large Action as their new 5-1 favourite for the Champion Hurdle, with Danoli and Relkeel at 6-1, while Fortune And Fame, who missed his engagement in the Bookmakers' Hurdle at Leopardstown, is at 8-1. Both Danoli and Merry Gale, the Irish-trained favourites for the Champion Hurdle and Gold Cup respectively, lost their places at the head of Cheltenham betting after demoralising defeats in atrocious ground at Leopardstown. Finishing a distance second in the Bord Na Gaeilge Christmas Hurdle, Danoli slipped to 6-1 from 4-1 with Ladbrokes, and Foley was full of regret for running his budding champion after he had coughed. 'The vets said it wouldn't do him any harm, but I know better now,' Foley lamented. While Danoli was reportedly suffering respiratory distress after his hard run, Merry Gale, previously 6-1 favourite for the Gold Cup, crashed heavily at the third fence in the Ericsson Chase. But Jim Dreaper, his trainer, saw a silver lining: 'Maybe it was an act of God that he went early. He's a delicate enough horse anyway and he would have taken some resurrecting after a run in that sort of ground.' The gelding may run next at Cheltenham in mid-January. So the clouds of confusion started to form after races that seemed designed to confirm the strong Irish position in the run-up to Cheltenham both ended in disaster for favourites followers. Danoli had been sent off at 2-1 on, while Merry Gale was only slightly more attractively priced, at 11-8 on. As for the Gold Cup, bookmakers and punters alike have been searching for a realistic contender, who can actually jump. Although that may sound slightly facetious, it is worth noting that big names Merry Gale, Barton Bank, Jodami and One Man have all been casualties in their races over the Christmas holiday period. The John Edwards-trained Monsieur Le Cure, runner-up in the King George VI Tripleprint Chase, and with the scope to improve in coming weeks, has now emerged as the chaser that punters consider most likely to develop into a serious challenger. He is 7-1 joint-favourite with Barton Bank in Ladbrokes' Gold Cup betting. Merry Gale is now 10-1 with Hills and Corals. Horses were finishing legless in the Ericsson Chase, with the Graham Bradley-trained Commercial Artist, a Grand National contender, out-plodding his rivals to score by 13 lengths from an 'off-colour' Nuaffe and a disappointing Flashing Steel. TIM Thompson, former clerk of the course at Sha Tin and Happy Valley, has been appointed racing supremo in Qatar. The globetrotting official will be responsible for virtually every racing post in the Gulf state. Thompson, 61, will combine the duties of clerk of the course, racing secretary, stewards' secretary and handicapper. From his new base in Doha, Thompson said: 'After nearly 14 years in the Far East, this is another very interesting assignment, with plenty of scope for innovation. A new racecourse in the existing site has also been mooted.' Thompson will be remembered in Hong Kong for his efforts as project manager at Sha Tin, when the racecourse was created and constructed on reclaimed land during the period 1973-78. He later spent many years with the Singapore Turf Club.