IN Compliance will return to Grade One company for the first time in almost two years in tomorrow’s John Durkan Memorial Punchestown Chase.
The nine-year-old appeared to have the world at his feet when beating War Of Attrition in this race three years ago, but an injury a year later saw him sidelined for a lengthy spell.
Dessie Hughes has slowly brought the Old Vic gelding back to full health and the trainer feels he is a fitter horse now than when making a winning return in a Listed event at Thurles a month ago.
“He’ll take his chance all being well and he’s done all his work and is ready to go,” said Hughes.
“He did it well in Thurles and although he’d need to improve a bit on that, I think he has.
“He’s a good horse and touch wood he’s right now, so we’re looking forward to seeing how he gets on at the weekend as we know he goes in the ground.”
Noel Meade admits Aran Concerto is likely to improve for the run having been off the track since edging out Barker - who reopposes - in the Powers Gold Cup in April.
“The ground won’t bother him and I’d certainly rather be running him on soft ground than fast ground,” said the County Meath handler.
“He’s as fit as we can have him but I’m sure he’ll improve for the run as he hasn’t run since the spring and he is a big horse.
“Everything has gone pretty well and I would just be happy if he runs a good race.
“I’m not going there bullish (that) he’s fully wound up as he’s a big horse and obviously he’s had a few setbacks, but I haven’t really been stopped with him recently and his work has gone well.
“Barker has had more match practice than us having run a good few novice chases and it’s a big ask for our horse as it is only his third run over fences.
“Barker is a good horse, Joncol is a good horse and In Compliance looks a top bit of stuff at the moment as well, so it’s going to be a good race.”
Willie Mullins is represented by Barker, who had Arkle winner Forpadydeplasterer 15 lengths behind when winning a Grade One at Punchestown in April, as well as smart mare J'y Vole.
“He’s been working well and has won around Punchestown, which is a help,” said the champion trainer.
“I think he handles testing ground but it is always tough running in a race like this first time out, so we’ll see.
“J’y Vole is in good form as well, so we’re hoping for a nice run out of her. As long as both horses jump well and run nice races, we’ll be happy.”
Completing the field is Paul Nolan's Joncol, who found only subsequent Paddy Power Gold Cup hero Tranquil Sea too strong on his first start of the season at Naas.
“We were pleased with his first run and the form of the race has worked out well,” said Nolan.
“We’re just hoping that he can improve enough to take on these guys at Grade One level.
“We believe he is really more of a three miler, but hopefully there will be pace on and the ground should be testing enough.
“He should have improved a nice bit since Naas and he’s in good form, so we’re hopeful and looking forward to Sunday.”
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