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Tullow looks to have lots in Tank

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A TOTAL of 352 entries were revealed for the four novice hurdle races at the Cheltenham Festival yesterday and Willie Mullins was responsible for 64 of them.

The Irish champion trainer unsurprisingly dominated the first glimpse of entries for the Supreme Novices' Hurdle, the Neptune, the Albert Bartlett and the Triumph Hurdle, but some of his colleagues on this side of the water are more than hopeful with their own representatives.

After running out a very impressive winner of the Grade One Paddy Power Future Champions Novice Hurdle at Leopardstown over Christmas, trainer Philip Fenton has plenty of reason to be confident ahead of The Tullow Tank's Cheltenham target.

The Barry Connell-owned six-year-old is now three from three over hurdles this season, including a brace of Grade Ones, and he'll try and make it three from three at the top level at Leopardstown next month en route to Cheltenham in March.

Fenton, who has given The Tullow Tank an entry in both the Supreme and the Neptune, said yesterday: "I was impressed and very pleased with the Leopardstown run over the way in which he really excelled when he got into a battle and won that quite easily and then went away at the line."

The former leading amateur added: "He's now on course for the Deloitte Novice Hurdle and I think the extra two furlongs (2m2f) there will be right up his alley and I've always thought that. Without a doubt, I think it was obvious that he would get two miles and further."

A point-to-point runner-up when a four-year-old and partly owned by Irish rugby international Seán O'Brien, The Tullow Tank is more likely to run in the Supreme Novices' Hurdle rather than the Neptune, according to the trainer.

"At the moment it's the two-miler we're thinking of, but the other race will be under consideration as well with the ground being a factor and we'll play it by ear and see closer to the time."

Noel Meade is hopeful he can repeat his Neptune Investments Novice Hurdle win of 2006 when Nicanor beat Denman and he is lining up Apache Stronghold, who has been absent since winning at Navan back in November.

The six-year-old by Milan was a very impressive winner when beating Azorian in the Grade Two Monksfield Novice Hurdle, but missed intended engagements back at Navan and at Naas since due to setbacks.

"All going well Apache Stronghold will go for the Neptune," Meade said. "He had a setback after Christmas and it has taken a while to get him back, so I won't be able to get another run into him."

A cautious Meade continued; "We don't want to rush him and it's a case of seeing if we can get him back up to that level. I won't run him unless I'm 100 per cent because there is always Aintree, Fairyhouse and Punchestown, but the plan is to run at Cheltenham.

"He's a gorgeous horse and we think he's right up there with the best around, so hopefully we can get him there."

SUIT

Meade also has Wounded Warrior in the Albert Bartlett, who ran a nice race when fourth to Sure Reef at Leopardstown on Sunday last and of the Gigginstown-owned five-year-old, he said: "He will definitely be better over further and three miles won't be a problem. The Leopardstown race didn't suit him at all."

Both Meade and Fenton have horses on the comeback trail with the lightly raced Monksland set for the World Hurdle despite being off since winning the woodiesdiy.com Hurdle at Leopardstown in December 2012.

"He hasn't run for over a year, but the plan is to go for the World Hurdle and all is going well for him now. We won't be able to get a run into him, so he'll have a few racecourse gallops," Meade said of the 14/1 shot.

Fenton unleashed both Last Instalment and Dunguib within a couple of days earlier this month and although Leopardstown is an option for Last Instalment next week, both could line up on the one day at Gowran the following week.

"Both horses have come out of their races safe and sound and are in full work. They recovered well from their races and haven't missed a day since," Fenton said.

"The Hennessy is still on the agenda for Last Instalment, but the Red Mills the week after would be another option if we feel the ground is more suitable.

"Dunguib came out of his race at Naas well and we're looking at the Red Mills Hurdle for him. There is no point looking too far ahead, we'll just take things step by step."


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