Sir Erec can take step forward
Joseph O'Brien is looking to further strengthen his hand in the four-year-old division as Sir Erec bids to follow up his debut win in the Tattersalls Ireland Spring Juvenile Hurdle today.
O'Brien dominated a Triumph Hurdle trial at Cheltenham last weekend when Fakir D'Oudairies beat stablemate Fine Brunello, and this time he saddles three, with Filon D'Oudairies and Gardens Of Babylon also lining up.
There is no doubting his first string, though, with Sir Erec, third in the Long Distance Cup on Champions Day at Ascot to Stradivarius, taking to hurdling well on debut.
"We were very happy with that for his hurdle debut. He'll have to step forward," said O'Brien. "It's a big ask going straight into a Grade One, and he'd be entitled to come on again from it."
Gordon Elliott runs Chief Justice and Coeur Sublime, with the latter a faller at the last when coming to make a challenge in a Grade Two at Christmas in which Chief Justice ran on to be second.
"Chief Justice was a bit unlucky the last day. He was a bit far out of it when my other horse fell," said Meath trainer Elliott.
"Coeur Sublime was sore for a bit after that, but he's OK again. You won't see the best of him until we get a bit more of an ease on the ground."
Elliott also runs Surin, who is evenly matched with O'Brien's Gardens Of Babylon.
Willie Mullins sends Tiger Tap Tap, second to Sir Erec on his Irish debut, and Lamarckise, and his son and assistant Patrick is confident..
"I'd be hoping Tiger Tap Tap might turn the form around with Sir Erec," he said. "Sir Erec had more runs on the Flat, and was probably a more professional horse than our fella over Christmas. I'd like to think our horse is open to a bit more improvement."
Elliott's Vision D'Honneur made a big impression when scoring on his second outing over timber at Punchestown and is one of the favourites for the Chanelle Pharma Novice Hurdle. He was, though, beaten on his Irish debut at Leopardstown by Klassical Dream, and the two meet again.
"He's improved an awful lot from it and Jack (Kennedy) said he'll actually improve again from Punchestown as he was still green," he said. "I think he's a smart horse."
Also in the Gigginstown colours is Noel Meade's Valdieu, who took a while to open his account but has now won his last two.
"He won easily in the north and then he was good the other day at Naas. That race the other day may just be a little bit false as the favourite (Barrington Court) went wrong so wasn't in competition," said Meade.
"Maybe the strength in depth in the race wasn't that great, but he jumped very well and did everything right. We've always loved him at home."
Sunday Indo Sport