Bally still in RSA hunt
Ante-post favourite Ballycasey tops a 53-strong entry for the RSA Chase over at Cheltenham on March 12.
The seven-year-old, convincing winner of his only start over fences so far, is one of seven possibles from the Willie Mullins stable.
Ireland's champion trainer also has Balnaslow, Champagne Fever, Suntiep, The Paparrazi Kid, Touch The Eden and Djakadam. Most of them hold alternative entries at the Festival.
Among a powerful Irish contingent is the Pat Fahy-trained Morning Assembly. The seven-year-old could face old adversaries including Gordon Elliott's Don Cossack, who was second to him in the Florida Pearl Novice Chase at Punchestown in November, and Carlingford Lough.
Carlingford Lough scorer got the better of Morning Assembly by a length and a half in the Topaz Novice Chase at Leopardstown last month.
"We intend to go to Cheltenham with Morning Assembly. We have entered him in the RSA Chase and National Hunt Chase, but the preference would be for the RSA Chase. We have entered him in the other race just so we have it as an option," said Fahy.
"He is ticking over at the moment and has come out of his run over Christmas in fantastic form.
"I was happy with his run at Leopardstown considering that it was a very good, very tough and very experienced horse that beat him. Carlingford Lough has won a Galway Plate and I could not have been more pleased with our horse.
"We have him entered in the Dr P J Moriarty Chase (February 9) at Leopardstown next month, but we still need to make a decision about whether or not he goes there. He is in there for experience as he will be jumping at speed over a shorter trip, but he is a very good jumper and you need to do that around Cheltenham.
"I think the Festival experience will be no problem for Morning Assembly. He is as cool as a breeze and takes everything in his stride. We thought he needed soft ground to be a Grade One horse, but he seems to go on any ground.
"He has never let us down and, if he goes to Cheltenham in the best of his
health, I expect him to be in the battle."
The home team includes Jonjo O'Neill's Taquin Du Seuil, Alan King's Smad Place, Donald McCain's progressive Corrin Wood, Emma Lavelle's Le Bec and Wonderful Charm, trained by Paul Nicholls.