Monalee and Turcagua clash as Mullins seeks four in a row
Surehaul Mercedes-Benz Novice Hurdle |Grade 3| 4yo and up| 3m | ATR
Monalee and Turcagua, who have finished second to star novice hurdler Death Duty on their most recent starts, clash in this event, in which they will be stepping up to three miles for the first time.
Monalee ran Death Duty to three and three-quarter lengths in the Grade 2 Navan Novice Hurdle in December and trainer Henry de Bromhead said on Wednesday: "He seems in good form and, as he won his maiden hurdle over two miles and six, the trip shouldn't be a problem. He's shown he handles testing ground well."
Turcagua, who found Death Duty nine lengths too good in the Grade 1 Lawlor's Hotel Novice Hotel at Naas early last month, is one of two runners for Willie Mullins, who will be seeking a fourth consecutive victory in the event.
Mullins, who is also represented by Battleford, said: "I don't see the trip being a problem for either of them and they'll like the testing ground. They're in good form and it's difficult enough to split them."
Ruby Walsh partners Turcagua, winner of a 2m4f maiden at Punchestown in December, while Battleford, the mount of Paul Townend, won a maiden hurdle at Leopardstown's Christmas meeting before losing out by nine lengths to The Storyteller at Thurles last month.
Disappointing last time
The Noel Meade-trained Rathnure Rebel is the only one of the six lining up to have run over three miles. Successful in a Grade 3 over the trip at Cork in December, he ran well below expectations in a Grade 2 over the same distance at Limerick's Christmas meeting, after which he was reported to be coughing.
Meade said: "Maybe he swallowed a bit of mud but we couldn't find anything wrong with him. It was disappointing as he was beaten so far out in the race. He's in good form. It's a good race and if the ground is loose rather than holding it should help him."
Gordon Elliott said of Woods Well, a maiden hurdle winner over two and a half miles at Fairyhouse on New Year's Day: "He'll love the trip and the ground and he's in good order, but it will be a big step up in class for him."
The Jessica Harrington-trained New To This Town, a dual bumper winner, has yet to score over hurdles and looks held by Turcagua and Battleford on form. He wears a tongue-tie for the first time.