Monkfish bids to follow up last year’s Cheltenham Festival success in the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle as he heads a total of 53 entries for the Festival Novices’ Chase, staged over an extended three miles, it is the second race on day two of The Festival
A Stowlin point-to-point winner for Cormac Doyle, the current clear favourite is one of four entries for Willie Mullins.
There are 53 entries this year, with 22 hailing from Ireland including the current clear favourite Monkfish, one of four entries for Willie Mullins.
The seven-year-old has won both his starts over fences in great style, mostly recently securing a Grade 1 contest at Leopardstown over Christmas.
The Mullins quartet also includes fellow Grade 1 winning point-to-point graduate Colreevy, a winner scorer at Limerick on 26 December. She ran at Lemonfield for Pat Doyle and her owner-breeder the Flynn family.
The pick of the British challengers at this stage is a pair of Irish point-to-point exports with Next Destination (Paul Nicholls), who has been successful in Grade 2 company on both his chase starts this term since moving from the Willie Mullins yard, and The Big Breakaway (Colin Tizzard).
The latter made a winner on his chasing debut at Cheltenham in November and then finished runner-up in the Grade 1 Ladbrokes Kauto Star Novices’ Chase at Kempton Park on St. Stephen’s Day.
Meanwhile a total of 59 entries have been received for the Grade 2 National Hunt Novices’ Chase, a race which features former pointers Monkfish, Next Destination and The Big Breakaway among the top four in the ante post market.
Jamie Snowden has two entries in this contest in the shape of Kiltealy Briggs, who was third at Ascot behind Allart in Grade 2 company last time out, and
Thomas Macdonagh, who got off the mark over fences at Catterick earlier this month. Both are horses sourced from the point-to-point fields.
The trainer continued: “Cheltenham plans are up in the air for Kiltealy Briggs at the moment.
"We are not really leaning anywhere with him, but he is in good form and the plan was to run him in the Altcar Novices’ Chase at Haydock on Saturday but I think that meeting could succumb to the weather. That race was probably going to tell us where we stand with him, so we will see what happens there first.
“The National Hunt Chase is possible for Thomas Macdonagh. He won well at Catterick last time out and he could also be one for a handicap at Cheltenham."