ANYTHING WILL DO didn’t need to improve to win his most recent outing over C&D, hitting the front on the home turn and always doing enough to get the verdict by half a length. That took his record over hurdles to three wins from four starts, and with further improvement not ruled out, he looks sure to take plenty of stopping again for Joseph O’Brien, who won this race with the smart Us And Them in 2017.
Unexpected Depth and Quartz du Rheu head the list of dangers.
A useful performer in bumpers last season, MINELLA MELODY had plenty in hand when making a successful hurdling debut at Cork last month, always in command after quickening clear on the run to two out.
She looks sure to do better again when the situation demands it and is fancied to prove far too classy for her four rivals here before testing the waters in graded company. The Gordon Elliott-trained pair of Ard Abhainn and Mount Ida can battle it out for the minor honours.
ARTIC PEARL missed the second half of last season after winning this race, but he has shaped as if retaining all his ability in two chase starts this term, notably looking a big danger at the time of his departure here in October.
He again caught the eye when faced with an insufficient test at Thurles last time (finished with running left) and should go well in the defence of his crown, with the addition of cheekpieces and return to hurdles both likely to benefit him.
Bilbo Bagins, Burlesque Queen and Treacysenniscorthy are just three of several dangers in an open heat.
MIN enjoyed a productive 2018/19 campaign, recording the first of his three Grade 1 successes in this race. Admittedly, this looks a deeper renewal than the one he won 12 months ago, but he is still very much the one to beat if arriving here in anything like top form.
These conditions clearly play to the strengths of Willie Mullins’ charge, who can boast the distinction of being Timeform’s fourth highest-rated chaser in training. Stablemate Real Steel is improving all the time and could be the one to give the selection most to think about, especially as Presenting Percy is likely to find this trip on the sharp side.
Those with previous experience over fences don’t set the bar all that high here, and it could be worth taking a chance on an interesting newcomer in the shape of DUNVEGAN.
Admittedly, the six-year-old failed to build on the promise of his maiden win over hurdles last season, but he was set some stiff tasks and is fancied to get back on the up in these calmer waters, with first-time-out possibly the best time to catch him. Breaken and Trainwreck are others with claims.
FRANKLY ALL TALK was in the process of running well when falling two out at this venue last month, yet to be asked for his effort and holding every chance at the time. Still relatively lightly-raced in this discipline, he is only 1lb higher here and looks to hold sound claims of making amends with a clear round.
Castafiore Park landed a gamble on her return at Down Royal and is not out of it despite a 9 lb rise, while Carrignagapple shouldn’t be underestimated, either.
JUNGLE JUNCTION has filled the runner-up spot on his last two starts and looks to have been found a good opportunity to go one better, with his most recent outing at Navan likely to have blown the cobwebs away after six months off.
There are several interesting debutants in opposition, though, and the market will likely prove informative, with Grangeclare Native and The Sliding Rock both making plenty of appeal on paper for Gordon Elliott.
*Prices & entries correct at time of posting