Despite being in the twilight of his career at the age of 11, Shark Hanlon’s stable stalwart has been in fine form this summer, most notably finishing a close second to Clondaw Warrior in the Galway Hurdle.
He got back on the winning trail at last month’s Listowel Festival, before filling the runner-up spot on the level just six days later, and returns to the jumping game on the first day of Punchestown’s season.
Hanlon said: “You’d be hoping he has a big chance, but it’s a competitive little race.
“Shay Barry’s horse (Bentelimar) is a good horse and Ruby (Walsh) rides him. A couple of the others are claiming, so we have to give the weight away.
“Our horse is in good form and ran well in Listowel over hurdles and on the Flat. I think the horse that beat him on the Flat (Snow Falcon) is a fair horse.
“Hopefully the ground is good and safe. They tell me it’s been well watered so hopefully it will be. If it’s not, he won’t run.
“If he runs as well as he did in Listowel, he should go close.”
The Bagenalstown-based trainer plans to keep his charge on the go for as long as possible this season, with a return to Galway next summer already on the radar.
“We’ll keep him going through the winter as he’s not getting any younger and he’ll be 12 just down the road,” Hanlon added.
“We’ve got the Galway Hurdle in our mind for next year. If we can get him back there in the same form as this year and on the same mark, he’d have a big chance again.
“Hopefully he’ll win another nice pot or two before he retires.He’ll tell us when he’s had enough. He’s been a great servant.”
Bentelimar ran an excellent race to chase home the highly-rated Ivan Grozny in the Istabraq Hurdle at Tipperary at the start of the month and, as a result, an intended career over fences has briefly been put on hold.
Barry said: “We’d intended to go chasing, but he ran so well in Tipperary and then this race came up, so we put him in.
“He’s in good order. Hidden Cyclone is probably the one to beat, but our horse loves Punchestown, so hopefully he has his chance.
“So long as the ground is safe he’ll run and we’re looking forward to it.
“This will probably be his last run over hurdles.”
Gordon Elliott’s high-class chaser The Game Changer reverts to hurdles for the first time in over a year, with 7lb claimer Cian Collins booked for the ride. The Joseph O’Brien-trained Plinth, Edward O’Grady’s Time For Mabel and Rashaan from Colin Kidd’s stable add further strength in depth.
Thomas Farrell’s Carpet Elegance, who has a mountain to climb on official ratings, completes the field.