Zabana primed for Gowran Park assault
Andrew Lynch cannot wait to unleash Zabana in the Gowran Park Thanks To All Our Customers In 2016 Steeplechase on Saturday.
The seven-year-old gelding earned quotes for the Cheltenham Gold Cup after delivering in Grade One company in the champion novice steeplechase at the Punchestown Festival in April.
He then finished fourth on his seasonal reappearance in a Grade Two at the Northern Ireland Festival of Racing at Down Royal at the start of the month, after making most of the running.
Lynch, who is delighted with Zabana's condition, said: "He is mighty! He is in super form and is ready to roll. He has strengthened up over the summer and is as good as he'll ever be.
"He wasn't 100 per cent ready for Down Royal. He kept going but got tired and missed one down the back which knocked the stuffing out of him.
"Bar a mishap, I think he'll win. They'll go a real good gallop with Ttebbob which will suit him. He'll get away with soft ground but not heavy.
"Davy (Russell) schooled him on Tuesday and he said he never jumped as well.
"If everything goes well, we'll look at Leopardstown at Christmas for the Lexus."
Zabana, who has a mark of 153, comes out best at the weights here.
Willie Mullins runs 145-rated Tennis Cap who has to give Zabana 5lb.
Assistant trainer Patrick Mullins conceded that it will be difficult: "It's a tough race for Tennis Cap. Zabana looks very well treated by the conditions of the race and he will be hard to beat.
"But it will be good to get Tennis Cap's season launched and hopefully we can find a nice handicap for him at some stage during the season."
Ttebbob, who was tailed off behind Douvan in a Grade One at Punchestown, represents Jessica Harrington. Prior to that, he had plenty of good form in the book including when winning his Grade Three at Navan.
Kitten Rock has his first outing since January when well beaten into third by Shaneshill in a novice chase at Naas.
Trainer Edward O'Grady has been waiting for the right ground conditions for his charge who won a beginners' chase in Navan last November, on the back of an excellent hurdle career that peaked at Grade Two level.
Champagne West makes his first start for Henry de Bromhead. He hasn't got home in his last three races in England but showed more than enough ability when placed in the Caspian Caviar Gold Cup at Cheltenham in December.