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Gatechecker to relish stamina test as Tiger waits in wings

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Trainer Gordon Elliott. Photo: Harry Murphy/Sportsfile

Trainer Gordon Elliott. Photo: Harry Murphy/Sportsfile

Trainer Gordon Elliott. Photo: Harry Murphy/Sportsfile

Providing Storm Ciara doesn't intervene and an early morning inspection is passed, punters will be treated to a bumper Punchestown card today headlined by the €100,000 BoyleSports Grand National Trial (4.0).

It's fitting that back-to-back Aintree National winner Tiger Roll will have his allocated weight for this year's renewal by the time the 20 runners go to post at the Kildare track for an intriguing contest that always provides clues for staying chasers to follow.

Gordon Elliott has the people's horse lined up for the Aintree showpiece once again - providing owner Michael O'Leary is satisfied with the weight which the 10-year-old is given - and he also has seven in contention for the lucrative Punchestown prize.

Elliott has landed the past two renewals of the event - where no horse carrying more than 11-0 has prevailed in the past decade - and Minella Till Dawn (10-6) ticks many boxes this time around.

Having strolled home at Cork over 2m4f last month, there may be plenty of further improvement to come, but only time will tell whether this marathon trip will be up his street with a close market check heavily advised.

With stamina doubts hanging over a host of runners, the each-way play could be to side with Michael Hourigan runner, The Gatechecker (10-8).

Stamina is assured having landed the Cork National in great style over a similar trip in November and while the JP McManus-owned 10-year-old can be hit and miss, Darragh O'Keeffe's mount has live place claims at big odds and should handle the testing ground conditions.

McManus also looks to hold the ace in the Listed Novice Hurdle (1.50) with Joseph O'Brien's Front View setting the standard based on his Cork maiden hurdle success in November.

Mark Walsh's mount faces a tough task, with Gearóid O'Loughlin's Cedarwood Road and Noel Meade's Beacon Lodge in hot pursuit for the €32,500 prize, which also features the Irish debut of Elliott's Fighter Allen, a half-brother to brilliant stablemate Envoi Allen.

Emmet Mullins should claim the Rated Novice Chase (3.30) with Zero Ten - which was second to Cash Back last time out and saw that form nicely boosted at the Dublin Racing Festival - while the concluding bumper (4.35) can see his cousin Patrick make it third-time lucky on Ferny Hollow.

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Meanwhile, tomorrow's Fairyhouse card has already been cancelled, with the Meath track unfit for racing. Trainers will be hoping the prospect of heavy rain and snow showers doesn't affect their preparations with the Cheltenham Festival just four weeks away.

Across the water, today's jumps card at Lingfield was called off due to waterlogging while tomorrow's meeting at Wetherby is another casualty.


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