'War' can gun down Boyne Hurdle rivals
A complete rethink about a splendid card at Navan tomorrow, which places the two chases at the end of the session, looks a sensible move with the possibility of severe overnight frost compromising the fixture.
However, long-serving course foreman Vincent Eivers was "very optimistic" yesterday that one of the key meetings here in the build-up to Cheltenham will beat the cold snap that claimed Thurles on Thursday.
"The going is soft and the hurdle track has fresher ground compared to the chase track, which has been used all winter and is fairly worn. Frost takes longer to come out of that and we've allowed extra time for it to thaw out," he said.
The former Cheltenham Gold Cup hero War Of Attrition, which came back to form over timber last month and Ninetieth Minute, successful there last March in the Coral Cup, meet in the Ladbrokes.com Boyne Hurdle.
These fine money-spinners are obliged to concede weight though to Ebadiyan and Mourad, which likewise got back on the winning trail last time out respectively at Naas and Punchestown in contrasting styles.
Although the often-placed Mourad had a straight-forward task at the Kildare venue, Ebadiyan needed the full treatment from John Cullen to deny Muirhead over a quarter mile shorter than today's distance.
On that basis, arguably one of his best displays to date, Oliver Brady's busy and very popular charge fully deserves to have a crack at the Grade Two Ladbrokes promotion that should generate a lively betting market.
Rated 5lb below the Mouse Morris star at present, Mourad will be the choice of many to capitalise fully on the 7lb he receives here from the top weight at a venue where Willie Mullins and Ruby Walsh will expect to prosper.
Nevertheless, it was difficult not to have been impressed by the renewed appetite for the game which War Of Attrition demonstrated in the Galmoy Hurdle at Gowran Park and this veteran could have a slight edge over Mourad and Ebadiyan.
The Ten Up Novice over three miles represents an even sterner stamina test for first-season runners over the larger obstacles and the Mullins-Walsh partnership have a worthy favourite in Uimhiraceathair.
This mature gelding turned in a splendid initial effort over fences at Gowran Park on the same Thyestes Chase card, confounding worries both about the mud and lack of market confidence to assert strongly in the closing stages.
Limerick and Punchestown scorers Beckett Rock and Sigma Lifestyle plus Telenor, which has already won over this route, will be required to progress again if they are to scuttle Uimhiraceathair's Cheltenham ambitions.
The concluding Flyingbolt Novice Chase which places the emphasis on pace rather than stamina, looks a more competitive heat, despite the absence of Henry de Bromhead's Arkle Cup winner An Cathaoir Mor.
Fourth in that Leopardstown Grade One race, trail-blazing Major Finnegan and Osana, which has won twice so far over the Navan fences, can take centre stage with Osana taken to produce the stronger finishing kick.
Mullins, meanwhile, has his eyes firmly fixed on the Cheltenham Gold Cup with Cooldine following his return to form in last weekend's Hennessy Gold Cup at Leopardstown.
Last season's impressive RSA Chase winner was pulled up on his comeback in the Lexus Chase over Christmas, but showed marked improvement to finish just a neck behind Joncol on his latest outing.
"Cooldine certainly showed his old sparkle and was beaten by a horse that is bang in form in Joncol," Mullins said. "He should keep improving now in the run up to Cheltenham."
Another Mullins inmate, which is Cheltenham-bound, is Cousin Vinny. The seven-year-old -- winner of the Champion Bumper at Cheltenham two years ago -- is without a victory in three starts since tackling fences and looks set to revert to the smaller obstacles for the World Hurdle.
"His fencing is too deliberate, so I'm going to call a halt to his chasing career for now," Mullins said. "He may have another go at it next season, but the World Hurdle will be his March target -- he should at least be able to hold his own in staying hurdle company."