Third in last year’s Cheltenham Gold Cup, he made a perfectly satisfactory start to this season when running away with the Clonmel Oil Chase.
He hasn’t been seen since, but his trainer, Noel Meade, reports him in great shape ahead of today’s assignment, and anything less than a comfortable victory will be disappointing.
He is a shade of odds-on to land the spoils, and can justify those odds at the expense of former Lexus winner Foxrock, who was a close second in this race last year, and who showed signs of a return to top form when third behind Don Poli in the Lexus Chase in December.
The nap goes to Bellshill, who can take a cracking renewal of the Deloitte Novice Hurdle for Willie Mullins and Ruby Walsh.
A smart sort in bumpers last season, he boasts a flawless record after three runs over hurdles, including a smooth victory over Last Encounter in a Grade One at Navan last time.
While the bare form of that race is nothing to write home about, it’s quite clear he has plenty more to give. The drop back from two and a half miles to two-two is of no concern, and he can come home clear of Tombstone.
The latter was a little unlucky not to make Long Dog work harder in a Grade One at this track over Christmas, but there was nothing between the front three, and connections of Bellshill can feel confident they have his measure.
The same connections can take the Flogas Novice Chase with Pont Alexandre.
Impressive on his return from a long break, he failed to follow up when just touched off by stable companion Roi Des Francs over three miles on testing ground at Navan.
That was three weeks ago, and there’s reason to believe he can take a step forward from it.
Back in trip, to two-five, I expect he will be ridden from the front, and can see off all-comers, headed by Zabana and Outlander.
Some Neck can land the bumper.
The race in which Some Neck finished runner-up, to the very promising Gurteen, turned into something of a sprint, and that may not have suited the Mullins runner.
The five-year-old can take a significant step forward from that, and see off the promising Sunni May.
All Summer Long could represent a little value in the mares’ handicap hurdle.
A fine third over two and a half miles last time, Paul Nolan’s seven-year-old should appreciate the shorter trip, and is preferred to The Living Beauty and last year’s winner Who’s That.
Considering Blazer was quite well fancied for a red-hot beginners’ chase at this track at Christmas and could prove thrown in off a mark of 126 in the 1888 Restaurant Handicap Hurdle.
The market should reveal expectation.
At Naas tomorrow, Alisier D’Irlande can bounce back from his tumble at Fairyhouse to take the two-mile beginners’ chase, though point winner Jack The Wire could blossom in this sphere, and is worth noting.
The application of a hood can have the desired effect on Blood Crazed Tiger in the bumper.
Well backed but a shade disappointing on his last two outings, he’s clearly thought capable of winning one of these, and this looks a decent opportunity.