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Leading owner looking forward to Christmas with team full of winter warmers

Barry Connell is looking forward to Christmas at Leopardstown with his stars
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Barry Connell has assembled a talented bunch of horses for the core jumps season and the owner is looking forward to a team of winter warmers to shine brightly over the Christmas period, headed by Cheltenham Festival winner Martello Tower.

The Mags Mullins-trained chaser found Anibale Fly three-quarters of a length too good on his chasing debut at Navan this month over a trip short of his best.

Connell believes the 2015 Albert Bartlett Novices' Hurdle winner has the right make-up to develop into a leading player in the top staying chases this winter, and revealed his intention to run the eight-year-old at Fairyhouse next weekend.

"Martello Tower is going to go for a beginners' chase at Fairyhouse over two miles five furlongs," said Connell. "He came out of his first run great and we were delighted with him.

"I think he could be an RSA Chase candidate as he's already won over three miles at Cheltenham and stays well. The other option there for him would be the four-miler.

"Hopefully he'll run well on Saturday and it will be onwards to Christmas, where we will step him up to Grade 1 company at Leopardstown."

Martello Tower (centre) got up to beat Milsean (left) in the Albert Bartlett Novices' Hurdle in 2015

The plan for Connell this season was to have his horses flying in time for festive period, with the idea of having plenty of runners at his local track Leopardstown.

He said: "We are aiming all of our good horses at the Christmas period. If we can get a run into them beforehand this will leave them all spot-on for Leopardstown."

Strong novice chase string

Connell underlined that he is particularly looking forward to seeing how his chasers perform this term.

"We probably have the most strength in depth in our novice chase contingent," he said.

"Gwencily Berbas is a horse we've always liked and he ran well behind Three Stars over fences on his chasing debut in Grade 3 company at Punchestown," said Connell. "He will improve a lot for that.

"We also have Tully East, who is very exciting and jumps great. Blue Hell disappointed us at Cheltenham but he's going novice chasing and could be an exciting two-miler.

"Marakoush, Balbir Du Mathan and Velvet Maker are others I'm excited about over fences."

I think he could be an RSA Chase candidate
E.W. Terms