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Rock-solid Roberto to deny Cheltenham hope Glencove

Eoin Griffin will be hoping that Glencove Marina can book his ticket to Ryanair Chase at the Cheltenham Festival in today's Matty Ryan Memorial Kinloch Brae Chase at Thurles.

The nine-year-old, formerly trained by Willie Mullins, has endured his fair share of injury problems during his career, but is still a force judged on recent results. After winning a Listed prize at this track, he went on to shape with credit in the John Durkan at Fairyhouse and most recently in Leopardstown's Lexus Chase.

Griffin is delighted to have such a high-class individual in his yard and sees the Ryanair Chase at the Cheltenham Festival as his perfect spring target.

"He's in good order, we're dropping back to two and a half miles, which on this ground is far enough for him," said Griffin. "Hopefully, he'll run a good race and he'll then go for the Ryanair.

"He should get the good ground he likes over there and that should suit him much better than the softer ground he has been running on through the winter.

"We're hoping he'll run well at Thurles. His legs seem fine at the minute and considering the problems he's had, he retains a high level of ability.

"We're delighted to have him in the yard and if everything stays right with him, hopefully, there'll be a big pot in him somewhere along the line."

A high-class field of 10 runners are set to go to post with Jessica Harrington's Robert Goldback likely to go off favourite. While Robbie Power's mount hasn't won so far this season, the nine-year-old has shown that he can make the transition to graded company.

Runner-up on his seasonal debut to The Nightingale, he followed up with a fine third to Tranquil Sea at Fairyhouse and while the chances of Glencove Marina and Tony Martin's Psycho are respected, Robert Goldback is the one to beat.

The other graded event on the card is the Ask & Getaway Coolmore NH Sires EBF Novice Chase, which looks a good opportunity for Blazing Tempo to notch her hat-trick over the larger obstacles.

The Willie Mullins-trained seven-year-old beat today's opponents, Cool Quest and For Bill, on her seasonal debut at Clonmel before recording an impressive win in a Grade Three contest at Punchestown on New Year's Eve.

The champion trainer also runs the front-running Morning Supreme, which is the mount of his nephew Emmet, but this eight-year-old is a very extravagant jumper which failed to cope with the Thurles fences first time out, so Blazing Tempo is the safer option.

Mullins can combine with his son, Patrick, to land the opening maiden hurdle with Shifa. A winner on the level in France, the five-year-old can continue Mullins' excellent run with imported French-breds, despite the obvious claims of the lightly-raced Ruler Of All.

Noel Meade saddles an interesting recruit in the WT O'Grady Memorial Hurdle, in which Maxim Gorky makes his debut in the Michael O'Leary colours.

A winner at Leicester and Newmarket on the Flat for Michael Stoute last year, the son of Montjeu, whose two wins came on soft ground, should be difficult to beat if he jumps adequately.

Former Cheltenham winner Whyso Mayo lines up for the closing hunters chase, but faces stiff competition from the prolific Top Twig and Enda Bolger's exciting On The Fringe. The latter gets a narrow vote in the hope he can deliver on the promise showed when winning at Punchestown last April.

Irish Independent