Avant Tout out to enter Hennessy picture
Avant Tout warms up for a possible tilt at the Hennessy Gold Cup in the five-runner Grade 3 Poplar Square Chase (1.10) at Naas today, with Paul Townend, who rode him to victory in a 2m5f novice handicap at the Punchestown festival in April, on board.
Winner of three of his five starts over fences, the Willie Mullins - trained six-year-old has not run since that Punchestown success and, speaking yesterday, Mullins said:"It's his first run of the season but he's in good form and although the trip is shorter than his optimum, he has won over it. He'll like the ground."
Alisier D'Irlande was two from four over fences last season and won a beginners' chase over today's course and trip by 17 lengths in February before comfortably landing a novice event at Leopardstown by nine lengths.
His trainer Henry de Bromhead said: "He seems in good form and has been working well. He's a course and distance winner and this looked a suitable race to start his campaign. He was disappointing at Aintree on his final start last season and I'm not sure why."
Although The Game Charger has not scored since completing a hat-trick of Grade 3 novice chase wins at Punchestown more than a year ago, the Gordon Elliott-trained seven-year-old, who will have Barry Geraghty on board for the first time, has earned prize-money on all of his seven subsequent starts. Elliott is also represented by Tell Us More.
Also at Naas, Ivanovich Gorbatov, the JCB Triumph Hurdle winner, makes his reappearace against three rivals, including the hat-trick seeking De Plotting Shed, in the 2m4f conditions hurdle (1.45).
It will be his first attempt over the distance and Frank Berry, racing manager to owner JP McManus, said yesterday : "He's in good form and Joseph [O'Brien] is happy with him. It's a nice race to start him in and the trip shouldn't be an issue.
Gordon Elliott, trainer of De Plotting Shed, said: "Ivanovich Gorbatov will be difficult to beat on his best form. Our horse is second best on official ratings and, while we're hoping for the best, if he finishes second it will be a good effort."