Briar looks to bounce back in Boyne
Ruby Walsh is hoping Briar Hill can earn himself a third trip to the Cheltenham Festival with a positive showing in the Ladbrokes Ireland Boyne Hurdle at Navan.
The seven-year-old was a 25-1 winner of the Champion Bumper for Willie Mullins two years ago and was one of last season's leading novice hurdlers before suffering a fractured cheekbone when coming to grief in the Albert Bartlett at Prestbury Park.
Briar Hill failed to fire on his return in Leopardstown's Christmas Hurdle and was also well beaten in last month's Galmoy Hurdle at Gowran Park, but Walsh reports the recent signs on the gallops to have been encouraging.
He said: "Briar Hill was disappointing in the Galmoy. I thought he'd improved at Christmas but he then ran very flat.
"The heavy fall he had at Cheltenham clearly left a mark on him and he had a long time off afterwards.
"He seems to be working better at home now. John Codd, who rides him at home, is happy with him so hopefully he can show that improvement on the track
"If he runs a big race, he'll put himself in the frame for the World Hurdle."
Briar Hill is one of three runners in Sunday's Grade Two event for the champion trainer.
The master of Closutton also saddles Zaidpour, the mount of Paul Townend, while 2013 National Hunt Chase winner Back In Focus makes his first appearance in getting on for two years in the hands of David Casey.
"Back In Focus has been off for almost two years. He has a lot of work done, but will definitely improve for the run," Walsh said in his Irish Examiner column.