Al Eile will try to emulate Morley Street when he bids to win the John Smith’s Aintree Hurdle for a fourth time on Saturday.
John Queally’s stable star, successful in 2005, 2007 and 2008, is among a field of 17 declared for the Grade One contest over two and a half miles, which Morley Street won from 1990 to 1993.
Timmy Murphy has partnered Al Eile to victory on all three occasions and cannot wait to team up with the nine-year-old, who made a triumphant comeback from a leg injury on the all-weather at Dundalk five weeks ago.
“I am looking forward to him. If he does win a fourth one, an awful lot of the credit has to go to John Queally,” said the jockey.
“We often say he knows his horses better than he knows his wife.
“He has done a fantastic job with him. Considering they were writing him off this season with the problem that he had, to bring him back for his first run over hurdles, it would be a fantastic performance,” Murphy told At The Races.
A six-strong Irish challenge includes dual Champion Hurdle winner Hardy Eustace, who runs in this race for the first time.
At the age of 12, Dessie Hughes’s veteran is the oldest horse in the line-up, but the trainer is expecting a much better run than his recent effort when he was ninth in last month’s Champion.
“He’s come out of Cheltenham in good form. We think he’s better now than he was then and we think he might get placed,” said the Kildare-based handler.
“I felt he needed the run – it came a bit soon after Leopardstown, where he wasn’t right.
“He had a lung infection and we didn’t really have enough time to get him 100% and he just blew up a little bit.
“He’ll be a better horse on Saturday than he was at Cheltenham, where he dropped out of contention when he normally is just getting into it. I think if we’d had 100% he could have run a very big race.
“The trip will be in his favour and he’s in very good form.”
Catch Me, Fiveforthree, Jered and Solwhit complete a strong Irish contingent while the Paul Nicholls-trained Celestial Halo, runner-up in the Champion Hurdle, heads the home team along with last year’s Cheltenham hero Katchit.
Duc De Regniere, Lough Derg and Mahogany Blaze were the only withdrawals at the final declaration stage.