Anibale likely to return in star-studded John Durkan
Tony Martin will finalise plans for Anibale Fly today, with the Gold Cup runner-up likely to make his seasonal reappearance over 2m4f in Sunday's John Durkan Chase at Punchestown.
Another tilt at the Gold Cup and the Aintree Grand National are the nine-year-old's long-term goals, with the Meath trainer declaring him to be "in great form" as he tops the 14 remaining entries for the €85,000 Grade One contest at the Kildare track.
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"The plan is to do a piece of work with Anibale Fly and see how he goes there but he's in great form. He's working away nicely at home and I think he is ready to run," Martin said.
Last year's winner, Min, is the most likely runner of five entries for champion trainer Willie Mullins while Ruth Jefferson has left in Waiting Patiently as she decides between the John Durkan and Saturday's Tingle Creek at Sandown.
Further intrigue could be added by the participation of the Pat Kelly-trained Presenting Percy, beaten favourite in this year's Gold Cup where he came back lame with an injury that has kept him on the sidelines, while Gordon Elliott's 2018 JLT winner Shattered Love will bid to go one better than last year.
Meanwhile, Joseph O'Brien expects dual Grade One-winning chaser Le Richebourg to return to the track in February as the exciting six-year-old continues his recuperation.
Le Richebourg was strongly fancied for this year's Arkle Chase at Cheltenham before injury ruled him out, but the Kilkenny trainer revealed that "he seems to be moving well and is in good shape" ahead of a return, possibly at the Dublin Racing Festival.
Elsewhere, Champion Hurdle favourite Saldier will miss his intended Christmas target in the Grade One Matheson Hurdle at Leopardstown having failed to please Mullins since his sparkling display in the Morgiana Hurdle.
The five-year-old, a general 4/1 chance for the Cheltenham hurdling showpiece, defied an absence of over a year to win the Morgiana when eclipsing stablemate Klassical Dream but the Closutton maestro revealed that he has not been himself since then and that he will need more time before returning to the track again.
"He just didn't come out of the Morgiana as I would have liked. Hopefully we'll have him back in action in the New Year," Mullins said.
On the flat, Colin Keane will represent Ireland when he rubs shoulders with some of the world's finest in tonight's International Jockeys' Championship in Hong Kong. Keane will be hoping to go one better having finished second last year in the four-race series at Happy Valley which also features Kerry jockey Oisín Murphy.
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