Noble Prince to boost Festival hopes
The current Ryanair Chase favourite Noble Prince will complete his preparations for Cheltenham at Fairyhouse tomorrow.
Having elected to swerve a clash with Sizing Europe and Big Zeb at Punchestown in a fortnight's time, Paul Nolan (pictured) might have hoped for a relatively easy time of things with his eight-year-old in the Normans Grove Chase at the Co Meath venue.
However, with the ground testing and the likes of Blazing Tempo and Tranquil Sea among his four rivals, last year's Jewson Chase victor is unlikely to have it all his own way.
Willie Mullins' Galway Plate heroine Blazing Tempo has relished easy going to score on her two most recent starts, though the drop in distance to two miles could ultimately count against her.
Nonetheless, Noble Prince and Tranquil Sea would likewise be more effective over further, with the latter's defeat to Apt Approach at Tramore looking less disappointing following that one's triumph at Thurles on Thursday.
All told, Noble Prince, 6/1 to record back-to-back success at the Festival in March, still sets the standard. He defied similar conditions to collect at Naas in October and found only Big Zeb too strong in two subsequent outings.
If he can reproduce that level of form under Davy Russell in this Grade Two, he should head for Cheltenham with a spring in his step.
The two-and-a-quarter-mile mares' hurdle is another excellent contest.
David O'Brien's dual Thurles winner Is Herself About is Russell's mount here, with the Youghal native's former point-to-point ally Robert Tyner responsible for Oscars Business.
Noras Fancy and Ceol Rua are others with chances in the €16,250 Listed race, but preference is for Tyner's daughter of Oscar Schindler.
A staying-on second on her bumper debut at Limerick in November, Oscars Business has since won a Navan bumper by 11 lengths and beat Glibin, which later won easily by 12 lengths on her hurdling bow over Christmas.
She will need to step up on that again here, but the three-time point-to-point winner is sure to be doing her best work at the death under Philip Enright.
The beginners' chase sees Ninetieth Minute, successful in the 2009 Coral Cup for Tom Taaffe, turn out for the first time since November 2010. A watching brief is advised in relation to that one for now, with Shot From The Hip expected to oblige.
Edward O'Grady's charge was a Grade One winner at Punchestown in May, and should be better for a respectable effort behind Hidden Cyclone at Leopardstown recently.
Theleze warrants the nap vote in the maiden hurdle.
Having finished fourth to Midnight Game and Joxer at the Christmas meeting, Willie Mullins' mare is the one to beat on form.