Noel Meade’s six-year-old, who finished second to Hurricane Fly in a Grade One event at Leopardstown over Christmas, confirmed the promise of that effort when powering clear of his rivals at the weekend.
Providing the gelding comes out of that race in good form, Meade is looking forward to a tilt at the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle on day one of the Festival, for which he is 20-1 with the sponsors William Hill.
“He was very good on the day but maybe he wasn’t any better than he was at Christmas when he ran into Hurricane Fly,” said Meade.
“He probably produced a similar performance to that but we were happy that he handled the soft ground as we were worried about that beforehand.
“We’ve always said he’d be a better horse on better ground.
“If we’re happy with him between now and Cheltenham he will probably run in the Supreme.”
There is the possibility he could renew rivalry with Hurricane Fly in the Festival curtain-raiser – although that horse’s Cheltenham participation is currently in the balance after he suffered a setback.
“We’ll have to see if Hurricane Fly turns up but if he doesn’t, Willie (Mullins) could run the other horse (Cousin Vinny) so it will maybe make his decision a little easier,” Meade continued.
“Whatever happens, we’re happy with our horse.”
Meanwhile Joncol is likely to run at either Fairyhouse or Punchestown as long as there is plenty of cut in the ground following his convincing victory at Naas on Sunday.
The RSA Chase at Cheltenham could come too soon for Paul Nolan’s six-year-old, who looked an exciting prospect when winning the Grade Two Woodlands Park 100 Nas Na Riogh Novice Chase.
Ideally, Nolan wants to give the son of Bob’s Return just one more run this season, with the April Festivals at Fairyhouse and Punchestown making more appeal than Cheltenham.
“We are still going to speak to the owners about Cheltenham, but more than likely it’s going to come too soon,” said the County Wexford-based handler.
“We will will probably concentrate on Fairyhouse and Punchestown, as long as there is enough cut in the ground.
“I’d say it’s more than likely we’ll be aiming for one more run before he takes his break.
“If we haven’t got genuine winter safe ground we won’t be taking any chances with him.
“I think three miles will be his trip in the long run and, hopefully, he’ll be up to that Grade One standard.”
Meanwhile, Nolan’s team for Cheltenham is taking shape.
He added: “We’ll have more than likely Dix Villez for the cross country race, Alpha Ridge for the Albert Bartlett, Shinrock Paddy for the bumper and we’ll have a couple of horses entered in the handicaps as well.
“Hopefully we’ll have nearly a full lorry going over.”