Marito and Roi Du Mee filled the first two places in the Listed At The Races Chase last year and the pair clash again in the Tramore feature today.
Roi Du Mee, who won the two-mile-five-furlong race in 2013, shared favouritism with Marito last term, but there was no doubting the latter’s superiority on the track as he comfortably prevailed.
It has certainly not been plain sailing for Marito since, though, with the eight-year-old subsequently sustaining an injury that required three months box rest.
Previously trained by Willie Mullins, he is now with Colin McBratney, who reports Marito to have made unexpectedly rapid progress in his recovery.
He said: “It was a case of him coming back right quicker than we ever thought he would.
“I didn’t think he’d be running until February or March, those were the indications we were getting from the vets.
“He just came back a lot quicker than we anticipated. He got the time he needed and we just kept working away slowly.”
The German-bred, who was runner-up to Hurricane Fly in the Grade One Morgiana Hurdle at Punchestown in November 2013, impressed all present when taking a Kirkistown point-to-point on his debut for McBratney 33 days ago.
The County Down handler said: “He’s in great form. He won his point-to-point. I don’t know how good he is but he seems well in himself and he’s working really well so he’ll not be far away.
“He never came off the bridle when he won his point and the horse he beat (Oscar Barton) went and won the hunters chase at Down Royal as easily as Marito had beaten him.
“He’s won around the track, so we’ll go and take our chance.
“The first day he ran he needed the run, he’s as fit as I can get him but he may even improve again out of tomorrow.”
Niall Madden takes the mount on Marito with Bryan Cooper favouring Roi Du Mee over fellow Gigginstown House Stud-owned runner Rathlin.
The Mullins-trained Turban and Henry de Bromhead’s Aupcharlie are the local hopes, while the six-strong field is completed by the John Ryan-trained Foildubh.
Meanwhile Martello Tower will not turn out quickly for Sunday’s Lawlor’s Hotel Novice Hurdle at Naas following his determined triumph at Limerick earlier in the week.
The Margaret Mullins-trained six-year-old showed he had suffered no ill effects from a heavy fall at Navan on his previous start by battling to victory over Outlander in a Grade Three event won 12 months earlier by the brilliant Faugheen.
Martello Tower has been given an entry in this weekend’s Grade One event in County Kildare, but Mullins is eyeing a possible trip to Leopardstown at the end of January.
She said: “He’s come out of the race grand, but he won’t run this weekend.
“He’s just a very tough and unassuming horse who only does what he has to do at home.
“We were delighted with him the other day as he had a heavy fall in Navan the time before and it was great to see him battle for it so well.
“I don’t know where we’ll go with him next. I’ll have a chat with Barry and see where he wants to go.
“It could be that he goes to Leopardstown on January 25 for a Grade Two race, but we’ll see.”
Mullins hopes a good showing on his next run can set up Martello Tower for a trip to the Cheltenham Festival, with the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle his likely target.
“I’d say if he goes to Cheltenham, it will be for the three-mile race,” said the trainer.
“He’s a funny horse as he does everything his own way. He’s never flashy. He just gets on and does it.
“He won his bumper on goodish ground and it was summer soft ground when he won his maiden hurdle in Killarney, so hopefully better ground won’t bother him.”
Le Vent D’Antan will be stepped up in class for his next outing, which is likely to be in the Dr PJ Moriarty Novice Chase at Leopardstown in February.
Liz Doyle’s five-year-old has always been highly regarded but it appears fences will be the making of him.
He barely broke sweat in winning at Leopardstown at the weekend, but Doyle is unclear what trip he will want in time having won over two miles and three furlongs.
“He’s come out of it good, I couldn’t be happier with him and he’s eaten up. It seems like he didn’t have a hard race,” said Doyle.
“I was delighted with his jumping and he’ll now be given an entry in the PJ Moriarty. We’ll dip our toe into graded class.
“It appears that he loves Leopardstown. He’s two from two there so that’s in his favour and it should make our minds up about what trip he wants.
“He was a bit short going to Naas, but what surprised me there was that he made two mistakes as he’d been foot-perfect at home. He’s a big horse who takes a lot of work.
“He’ll need to up his game again and he still has a lot to learn.
“People who know more than me say he’s an Arkle type, but then I’ve spoken to others who say he’ll want three miles.
“I just think over two miles, if he makes a mistake he might not get back into it, so I’d prefer to keep him in his comfort zone.”
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