Trainer Ross O’Sullivan expects his star mare Baie Des Iles to give another good account of herself in the At The Races Bobbyjo Chase at Fairyhouse today.
Fifth behind Cheltenham Gold Cup favourite Native River in the Welsh Grand National at Chepstow over Christmas, the six-year-old grey then claimed her second win since arriving from France in the Grand National Trial at Punchestown three weeks ago.
Connections were initially keen on a tilt at this weekend’s Eider Chase at Newcastle, but have had a change of heart and she instead stays on home soil to contest a Grade Three event rendered a little less competitive by the defection of Gordon Elliott’s top-class chaser Don Poli.
O’Sullivan said: “She would have had top weight in the Eider and we just felt for a six-year-old mare in very heavy ground, it would have been a tough ask.
“She only has to carry 10st 7lb in the Bobbyjo and with the 7lb mares’ allowance, the conditions of the race suit her better.
“Even without Don Poli it’s still a competitive race, but hopefully she’s in the mix.”
With Baie Des Iles not qualified for the Grand National at Aintree this year due to her age, she is set to instead be targeted at the Irish equivalent on Easter Monday.
However, she has options at Cheltenham and Naas beforehand.
“The Irish National is a race we’ve got our eye on, but a lot will depend on the ground,” O’Sullivan added.
“We’ve also left her in the Kim Muir in Cheltenham and there’s the Leinster National in Naas the Sunday before, so we’ve got a few options.”
In Don Poli’s absence, Gordon Elliott relies upon Roi Des Francs, who is fitted with cheekpieces for the first time.
Roi Des Francs is one of three runners for Gigginstown House Stud along with 2015 Irish National winner Thunder And Roses, now trained by Mouse Morris, and Noel Meade’s Wounded Warrior.
Paul Townend takes the ride on Jim Culloty’s 2014 Gold Cup hero Lord Windermere for the second time, having been on board when he was narrowly beaten by Champagne Fever in a thrilling race at Thurles earlier in the season.
Willie Mullins won the Bobbyjo Chase for a record sixth time with Boston Bob 12 months ago and this year saddles Thyestes Chase fourth Pleasant Company.
Georges Conn, My Murphy and Not For Burning complete the line-up.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved