Focus back in Listowel

The highly-regarded Back In Focus takes to fences for the first time under Rules in the Kevin McManus Beginners Chase at Listowel on Thursday.

The highly-regarded Back In Focus takes to fences for the first time under Rules in the Kevin McManus Beginners Chase at Listowel on Thursday.

The seven-year-old graduated from the point-to-point sphere with a huge reputation and could not have been more impressive on his hurdling debut at Haydock in February last year, ploughing through the mud to win a Grade Two prize by six lengths.

He failed to fire on his final start for Howard Johnson at Aintree, but returned from over a year off the track to finish second over timber at Tipperary in July, his first appearance for champion trainer Willie Mullins.

With fitness now on his side, he is likely to be a warm order on his chasing introduction, carrying the colours of Graham and Andrea Wylie.

The horse that sets the standard on chase form is the Dessie Hughes-trained White Star Line.

Although still a maiden over fences, he was second behind Hunt Ball at the Cheltenham Festival in March and is rated 136.

“Hopefully he has a decent chance but the horse of Willie’s is a fair horse and has had a run over hurdles, so I’d say he’s the one to beat,” said Hughes.

“Our horse has a bit of experience on his side, but the ground wouldn’t be altogether in his favour. He showed he’s a better horse on better ground when he ran in Cheltenham.”

The most valuable contest on an eight-race card is the Guinness Handicap Hurdle, worth 26,000 euros to the winner.

Tony Martin saddles three runners, with Paul Carberry taking the mount on Osirixamix, Ruby Walsh partnering Dara Tango and Mark Walsh getting the leg up on Thomas Edison.

Osirixamix has not run over obstacles since winning at Fairyhouse on New Year’s Day, but had a recent pipe-opener on the Flat in Killarney, although he was pulled up that day.

Martin said: “Osirixamix would have a chance if he comes back to his best and Dara Tango ran a good second the last day over hurdles in Sligo.

“Thomas Edison has some decent form as well so they’d all have a little chance, it’s just about who fires on the day.

“It’s testing ground but it’s the same for them all.”

Smart dual-purpose performer Whatuthink will face seven rivals on the level in the Thomas O’Connor Memorial Handicap, with Joseph O’Brien doing the steering.

Caim Hill is on a hat-trick is on a hat-trick in a wide-open Ladbrokes Handicap Hurdle, while the unbeaten Annie Power faces just one opponent – Cork winner Vintage Supreme – in the concluding bumper.

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