'Battle' and 'Tornado' set to put Festival credentials on line
There could be fascinating duel in Sunday's Grade One Lawlor's Of Naas Novice Hurdle with Gordon Elliott's unbeaten Battleoverdoyen and Willie Mullins' Tornado Flyer among the 17 to have stood their ground.
Battleoverdoyen left many purring about his future when scoring comfortably at Navan last month and could be joined by Cullentra stablemates Defi Bleu, Felix Desjy, Monbeg Worldwide and Commander Of Fleet in the €90,000 contest over 2m4f.
Champion trainer Mullins has prevailed six times in the last decade and last year's Punchestown Champion Bumper winner Tornado Flyer will take his chance following a satisfactory hurdling debut win last month.
"Tornado Flyer would look a likely one for Sunday and there's a couple of others that could run there too. Come To Me was a good winner of his maiden hurdle at Cork a few weeks ago and Getareason is another that could line up. He ran well at Navan over this trip last month," Mullins said.
Battleoverdoyen and Tornado Flyer are both hovering around the 12/1 mark for the Ballymore at the Cheltenham Festival while their main opposition this weekend is likely to come from Joseph O'Brien's Lone Wolf and Pat Fahy's talented novice Dunvegan.
Meanwhile, Kemboy will head straight to the Cheltenham Gold Cup as Mullins - six times a runner-up - bids to plunder his first blue riband.
Kemboy put his name firmly in the hat for this year's renewal when cruising to Grade One success in last week's Savills Chase and the progressive seven-year-old will be saved for the Cotswolds with Steve Massey, racing manager to owners Supreme Racing Club, dreaming of what might be.
"The plan is to go to Cheltenham without another run and keep him fresh, unless Willie changes his mind. The big thing with him is he's only seven and he needs looking after. There's no better person to do that than Willie," Massey said.
"Everyone wants a Gold Cup runner. I watched Denman win the old Lexus and he won the Gold Cup that same season. To think you've got a horse that has won that race and is going to the Gold Cup now is unbelievable."
Kemboy is a general 7/1 third favourite for the Gold Cup behind Presenting Percy (4/1) - last year's RSA Chase winner is without a run yet this season due to unfavourable ground - and defending champion Native River (5/1) but the Supreme Racing Club are likely to have another high-profile runner at the Festival.
Aramon plundered the Grade One Future Champions Novice Hurdle at Leopardstown's Christmas meeting and is a 12/1 shot for the Supreme Novices' Hurdle but the six-year-old will first take in a Grade One at next month's Dublin Racing Festival.
"It was breathtaking watching him go to the line and a good pace is the key to him. We thought he was a two-and-a-half-mile horse but he's definitely got a gear or two and he's better on good ground," Massey said.