Colm Murphy is looking for Zaarito to prove he deserves a return trip to the Cheltenham Festival in the paddypower.com Johnstown Novice Hurdle at Naas on Sunday.
Last year’s Champion Bumper third got off the mark over obstacles in impressive style at Punchestown last month and was being geared towards a tilt at the Deloitte Novice Hurdle at Leopardstown two weeks ago before that race was abandoned.
Murphy decided not to let him take his chance in the rearranged race last weekend as his charge was not firing on all cylinders but the gelding’s recent work has pleased the County Wexford handler much more.
“We just wanted to get another run into him before Cheltenham and this looks a good opportunity for him,” said Murphy.
“We had hoped to run him at Leopardstown a fortnight ago but that was off and we were not 100% happy with him the following week.
“The extra week seems to have freshened him up a bit and he seems very good again now. We will know a lot more about where we are going after Sunday.”
Murphy is double-handed in the Grade Two contest with Kimberlite King bidding to bounce back to form having finished a distant fourth behind Mikael D’Haguenet last time.
“He ran OK last time but we were a little disappointed. He won’t mind the ground and there should be more of a gallop on this time which would help him. Hopefully he’ll run a good race,” Murphy added.
Michael O’Brien’s mare Oligarch Society will bid to show her male counterparts the way home as the only member of the fairer sex in the line-up.
The six-year-old made a winning debut in a Gowran Park bumper in October of last year and followed up over obstacles at the same track just a month later.
The form of that event has worked out well with the runner-up Persian City having won twice since and O’Brien believes her weight concession could prove invaluable.
“I would say she’ll have a good chance as she is a decent mare and it is not the toughest Grade Two that you’ve ever seen,” said O’Brien.
“The top horse (Roberto Goldback) has to give her 10lb so I think she should run a big race.
“We do think a lot of her but we decided not to go to Cheltenham this year. We are going to send her chasing all being well next season and she might end up there that way but we will see.”
Go Native bids to get back on the winning trail having finished second to Hurricane Fly last time, while Roberto Goldback and the Last Derby complete the field.