After an absence of more than 11 months, he returned with a really likeable performance on his chasing debut at this track. Conceding race fitness to the promising As De Mee, he was produced late to record a smooth success and a pleasing round of jumping.
And he had little trouble following up, again at this track, where he is unbeaten in four runs, with an easy success over only finisher Sametegal in a three-runner race.
While neither effort could possibly suggest he has reached anything like the same heights over fences as he did over hurdles, they were ideal races returning from an injury-forced absence.
He hasn’t been seen in competitive action since December, but that’s not a concern for the eight-year-old as he won the World Hurdle off an almost identical break.
This is certainly his toughest assignment over fences but the class he showed over hurdles chalks him down as the one to beat. He is preferred to another exciting chaser, No More Heroes.
The latter, who was somewhat unlucky when a beaten favourite in the Albert Bartlett at this meeting in 2015, has won two Grade Ones in just three runs over fences. He has the potential to develop into a Gold Cup contender, but the drying ground may not be in his favour.
Blazer can land the ever-competitive Coral Cup for Willie Mullins and Barry Geraghty. An easy winner at Leopardstown in February, he was brought out just seven days later to contest the Betfair Hurdle at Newbury. He failed to figure there but the run on very testing ground on his previous outing may have been a major factor.
He has the potential to leave his handicap mark behind and, with the Mullins team in such sparkling form, he looks sure to run a big race.
The Neptune is a cracking race, particularly with the late confirmation of Yorkhill’s participation. He adds to a strong challenge from Closutton, which includes the not-to-be-underestimated A Toi Phil.
The latter took a significant step forward last time, and the form of the race was franked by runner-up Acapella Bourgeois. With a little more improvement, he should to very close.
Yorkhill’s Tolworth Hurdle form also looks very strong, and he has to be respected, but preference is for the Alan King-trained Yanworth, who is a tremendous talent.
He was very smart in bumpers, but has improved markedly over hurdles this term. Over this course in late January he produced his best performance to date when readily accounting for the highly regarded Shantou Village.
His jumping isn’t without its flaws, but his engine is enormous and if he doesn’t make too many mistakes he should have too much pace for his rivals.
The bumper looks wide open, but there was a lot to like about Battleford’s winning debut at Punchestown and he is a token suggestion to outrun odds of 20-1 or greater. The Dermot Weld-trained First Figaro could also run into the frame.