Avant Tout goes on trial for the Cheltenham Festival in today’s Thurles Racecourse Supporters Club Chase.
Only four go to post, with Willie Mullins responsible for two of those in Avant Tout and Tennis Cap, who was runner up in the County Hurdle in 2013.
Avant Tout has only run twice over fences but showed he possesses a good deal of ability when narrowly beaten by the classy Outlander at Limerick last time.
“The ground will not be ideal as he’s a spring horse, but Willie entered everywhere and was keen to get another run into him this week,” said Steve Massey, racing manager of the Supreme Racing Club who own Avant Tout.
“He’s rated 144 in Ireland and 149 in England, so that’s short of Grade One class at the moment.
“You can’t rule any of the four out tomorrow and the others have got more experience than him.
“He jumps well, touch wood, and we’re hopeful of a good run, although the trip might be a bit short.
“We were pleased with him last time to say it was his first run since May and he made Outlander pull out all the stops.
“We think he has a huge future but we’ll know more about where he might end up after tomorrow.
“It’s nice that Ruby has picked us, it’s always a bit of a boost as he had the choice, although we’re always happy to have Paul (Townend) too.”
Henry de Bromhead’s Smashing has not been seen since making a winning reappearance at Gowran in November and holds an entry in the Ryanair Chase.
“The race has been rearranged and the conditions of it are ideal for him so we waited for it,” De Bromhead said.
“He won his first start back but that seems a long time ago now at the end of November.
“He’s a nice horse, he jumps well.
“He’s in the Ryanair – we have that as an option we can say – (but) the Red Mills Chase (at Gowran) might be next, but we need to get Thurles out of the way first.
“He could be one for the two-mile-five handicap at Cheltenham.”
The field is completed by the Sandra Hughes-trained Nearly Nama’d, who has made great strides recently, progressing from a mark of 127 to 143 in just two races.
Last time out he won the competitive Dan Moore Chase at Fairyhouse.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved