Double takes aim at Clonmel prize
Double Irish is among those trying to earn a trip to Cheltenham in the Surehaul Mercedes-Benz Novice Hurdle at Clonmel on Thursday.
Gordon Elliott's six-year-old made a big impression when opening his account over hurdles at the third attempt with a 13-length drubbing of his rivals at Leopardstown's Christmas meeting and he has since been bought by leading owner Barry Connell.
Double Irish holds entries in the Supreme Novices' Hurdle, the Neptune Investment Management Novices' Hurdle and the Albert Bartlett at Cheltenham next month, but first tests water at Grade Three level.
Elliott said: "He won well Leopardstown the last day and he has come on from the run and we're very happy with him.
"The step up to three miles is a little unknown for him but we are caught for time if we want to bring him to Cheltenham as this is the last real trial for him to find out if he will travel.
"His form is good and, if he stays the trip I'd be very hopeful."
Elliott also saddles Moonshine Lad, a winner at Limerick before narrowly beaten by Sure Reef at Leopardstown last month.
"Moonshine Lad is also in good form, has some recent good form and while he mightn't want much more rain, he'll like the trip," said the trainer.
The Pat Fahy-trained Shantou Ed, owned by JP McManus, came good over hurdles at the third time of asking with a smart effort at Fairyhouse almost three weeks ago.
Fahy said: "His jumping was letting him down in the beginning as he was a little bit too eager and not taking time to eye up his hurdles, but he has progressed nicely and is a lovely horse.
"It's a good race, but you don't get many soft Graded races. It'll be interesting to see how he gets on but he seems on the up and should stay forever.
"I'm hoping for best and hopefully he'll be up for the challenge."
The Job Is Right has options over both hurdles and fences at Cheltenham and trainer Michael Hourigan is keen to find out which way he should go.
He said: "It's a big ask for him in such a good race and giving away weight. The trip will be all right but the competition is strong.
"I don't know yet whether or not he'll go to Cheltenham but he is in both the Albert Bartlett and National Hunt Chase and a lot will depend on tomorrow's run."
Eoin Doyle does not expect a step up in distance to trouble The Winkler, who has won two bumpers and a hurdle race from six career starts.
Doyle said: "He is stepping up from two miles to three miles but they should go a steadier gallop in this and I see him as a three-mile horse down the road.
"He's in good form and I'm hopeful he'll be competitive and we'll see where we're at after the race.
"He's still a young horse and there's no real hurry with him so he'll skip Cheltenham, probably in favour of Punchestown. "
Champion trainer Willie Mullins runs Don Poli, who carries the colours of leading owners Gigginstown House Stud.
Captainofthefleet, Goonyella, Seskinane and Railway Zira complete the 10-runner field.