In what looks set to be the most informative novice event of its kind run either side of the Irish Sea so far this season, his trainer Willie Mullins saddles four of the nine runners.
With Alvisio Ville owned by JP McManus, Tony McCoy rides and his price for the Neptune Investment Management Novices’ Hurdle has collapsed in recent days. He won very impressively on his hurdling debut at Leopardstown over Christmas but this represents a steep rise in class.
The last two winners of this race, Champagne Fever and Vautour, both trained by Mullins, went on to win the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle at Cheltenham.
McManus’ racing manager Frank Berry said: “He’s a bit of an unknown. He won a maiden at Christmas very well. He did it nicely, but it was only a maiden, though.
“This is a big step up for him into a Grade One. Everyone seems happy with him at the minute. “We’ll learn a lot more about him. It looks a competitive race and hopefully he can give a good account of himself.”
Mullins said: “He needs to get experience, he was very good at Leopardstown around Christmas.
“Whether we are asking him too much taking on the type of horse he will meet here at this stage of the season, I don’t know.
“I would have probably picked an easier contest but there are very few this close to Cheltenham.
“The trip won’t be a problem as he’s a big, long-striding horse.”
Mullins runs two who are already winners at the highest level, McKinley, who beat better-fancied stablemate Tell Us More at Navan, and Nichols Canyon, winner of the Royal Bond at Fairyhouse.
McKinley will be ridden by David Casey with Ruby Walsh on Nichols Canyon and Paul Townend on Sempre Medici
“I didn’t think McKinely was going to be that good but he was improving all the time on the gallops,” said Mullins.
“It was a fair-run race (at Navan) and Tell Us More probably did the donkey work and handed it to him a little but they pulled away from the third and there was nothing flukey about it. NIchols Canyon deserves to run, too.”
Walsh envisages the step up in trip will suit Nichols Canyon.
“He’s in good form. When John Gosden had him on the Flat he was a stayer so you’d imagine a step up to two and a quarter miles, or even further in time, might suit him,” he said.
“It was a novicey mistake the last day, he didn’t fall, I ended up falling off him, but he’s been in really good order of late.
“He’s a Grade One winner earlier in the season so he goes there fit and well and should have a really good chance.”