Sporting a hood for the first time as she bids to prove her well-being ahead of a return to Cheltenham, she has to beat just two rivals which, in terms of ability, she stands head and shoulders above.
The race is all about Willie Mullins’ eight-year-old mare putting in a clear round of jumping and showing enough spark to justify her position as short-priced favourite for next month’s Mares’ Hurdle at the Festival.
She has, of course, got an entry in the World Hurdle, but the mares’ race would seem a more likely route.
The nap goes to Robin Thyme, who is overdue a breakthrough in a maiden hurdle and can get that today. Gordon Elliott’s horse has been competing in decent company, and lost very little in defeat behind Balko Des Flos last time out.
This looks an easier assignment, and he can land the spoils at the expense of promising point to point winner Gran Cavallo, who pushed the gambled-on Oscar Lantern all the way on his racecourse debut late last month at Thurles. He should be better for the experience, but may struggle to cope with the selection.
A market move for Long Way Back would be worth noting.
Trainer Gavin Cromwell has been enjoying a fine run, and that can continue with Midnight Theatre, who can land the mares’ maiden hurdle over two-six. Winner of a point to point at Horse and Jockey, where she beat one of today’s rivals, Jodies Miss, she made her racecourse debut last April in a bumper at Cork and ran well to finish fourth behind Marygale Bridge.
Over hurdles for the first time, in December, she again ran a fine race to finish fifth behind the useful Whistle Dixie.
That was her first run since April, and she can be expected to step forward from it. The extra couple of furlongs should also be in her favour and, as this doesn’t look the strongest of contests, it’ll be surprising if she doesn’t put up a bold bid.
The obvious danger is Ballybrowney Ella, who disappointed last time but was beaten less than 10 lengths behind Daisy’s Gift at Killarney, last summer. She is probably better on quicker ground, but must be respected, nonetheless.