Tony Martin will bid for a second successive victory in Naas's €50,000 Leinster National tomorrow with his game Leopardstown Christmas hero Living Next Door.
A year ago, Martin prevailed with the lowly weighted Gallant Oscar. If Living Next Door is to plunder the spoils this time, he will have to do so under the considerable burden of 11st 10lb, Denis O'Regan's mount having incurred a 12lb penalty for his triumph in the valuable Paddy Power Chase.
He obviously has a chance, but this is going to be tough, with eight other decent sorts in the three-mile handicap. Despite going up nine pounds for her runaway course and distance win last month, Francis Flood's Miss Xian is still six pounds out of the handicap, but she goes well off light weights and can't be written off under Mark Enright.
While consistent operators Letter Of Credit and Ad Idem are others with obvious appeal, the preference is for Peter Fahey's Owega Star. A gallant second on its handicap chase debut in the Troytown Chase at Navan in November, the eight-year-old then finished fifth behind Living Next Door at Leopardstown.
He is 12lbs better off now under Davy Russell and that might be enough for him to turn the tables on the top-weight, as he has the scope to do much better in races like this by gaining more experience.
The exquisite dual champion jockey is aboard Stuart Crawford's impressive Ayr winner Fine Rightly in the Grade Three novices' chase. Azorian, Lots Of Memories and Rule The World are others that look likely to be similarly matched, but it is Martin's Noble Emperor that is fancied to prove a shade superior.
The lightly-raced JP McManus-owned seven-year-old has progressed steadily over fences, following his facile maiden win at Fairyhouse with a fine second to last year's Cheltenham hero Very Wood in a Grade Two at Navan last month.
Noble Emperor emerged with his reputation enhanced on that occasion, as he only lost out to a quality individual having jumped boldly at many of his fences.
If he reproduces that level of performance under Barry Geraghty, he is going to take plenty stopping now. In the Listed novices' hurdle, Martin's Golantilla is on duty, having been scratched last weekend due to a bout of coughing.
The most appealing aspect about him at Leopardstown was he was stepping up to two and a quarter miles, which looked as though it would suit ideally. This €25,000 affair is over two, but the 2013 Champion Bumper third is trusted to have the quality to prevail.
Sub Lieutenant's stylish recent triumph at Thurles franked the form of Golantilla's Grade One third at Leopardstown, so Adrian Heskin's mount is worth keeping on side for now, as he has shown before he possesses a considerable amount of ability.
Of the others, the lightly-raced Identity Thief has something to prove after misfiring last time and it may be that Phil's Magic could be the selection's greatest threat.
Sandra Hughes' five-year-old did the job really nicely here last month so he is clearly going the right way.
In the two mile three furlong handicap, Tom Mullins' Some Article gets the nod to build on his Punchestown win. He promised plenty as a young horse and he is potentially well handicapped now he has found a bit of form again.
The card's nap vote goes to Mags Mullins' Last Encounter in the bumper. Second to the useful Modem on his Navan hurdle bow, the son of Beneficial reverts to the level now under Patrick Mullins for what doesn't look that strong a race.