Foil bids for more Grove glory

John Ryan believes Foildubh is back on song ahead of his defence in the Normans Grove Chase at Fairyhouse on Sunday.

The 10-year-old faded badly when third behind Un De Sceaux over timber at Navan in January but Ryan regrets running his charge then, just 15 days after finishing a respectable sixth in the Lexus Chase.

Foildubh now bids to regain the winning thread in a race he landed by just under two lengths last year.

"He's in tremendous form. I ran him back too soon after the Lexus when he was taking on Un De Sceaux on desperate heavy ground," said Ryan.

"I shouldn't have run him - I'm really sorry I did but it's one of those things.

"He got a very bad cut on the hind leg then and credit to my vet Rob Morris who did a brilliant job on him - it took a bit of time.

"Paul Carberry has schooled him recently after racing at Leopardstown and Thurles. He's lovely and fresh and that's when he's at his best.

"He was only beaten 11 lengths in the Lexus and ran well in it.

"We're hoping to win on Sunday - he won it last year. I think we might have beaten Arvika Ligeonniere at Clonmel (in November) only for a mistake two out."

Arvika Ligeonniere heads the six-runner field and will be bidding to bounce back to winning ways after another poor Cheltenham effort last month.

Tony Martin saddles Grand Annual winner Savello and is hoping the race doesn't come too soon after his battling success at Cheltenham.

"We're very happy with him. He's in good form and we're hoping he gives a good account of himself," said Martin.

"He's won on that ground before and it's just a matter of whether he's gotten over Cheltenham but we've been pleased with him since."

Apache Stronghold returns to action in the Coolmore NH Sires Novice Hurdle after a setback forced him to miss some possible big-race targets.

The Milan gelding has not run since November and trainer Noel Meade has warned he may need the run.

"He had a setback and we got held up with him. He's come along nicely but I'm not sure if he'll be 100 per cent wound up. He's in good form though," said the handler.

"He ran in a schooling race last week and worked very well. He's ready to go and give it a shot."

Meade also saddles Festive Felon in the race but admits he has a bit to find to make an impression at this level.

"He has a few pounds to find with a few of them but the soft ground made me take my chance.

"He had a disappointing run the last day but he's maybe better going this way around as he tends to lean a bit."

Liz Doyle is keen to test the waters at this level with Le Vent D'Antan after the smart bumper performer opened his hurdling account in fine style at Navan last month.

"He came out of the race in Navan very well. The step up in trip looked to really suit him then," said Doyle.

"It's a step up in class with him but we have to see what way we are going with him. The ground shouldn't be a problem as he won his bumper in heavy.

"He's in great form and he didn't have a hard race last time. Riding him reasonably positive over two-and-a-half looks to be a good idea and I'm looking forward to it.

"There are a lot of horses in the race rated in the 130s and 140s and it looks a real Grade Two. Six or seven of them could win it. Fingers crossed he puts up a good show."

Willie Mullins saddles three in the race with the unexposed Renneti, who was placed in Grade One company earlier in the season.

The Irish Stallion Farms EBF Mares Novice Hurdle Final provides Grade One action and Gordon Elliott is hopeful Layla Joan can get in the mix .

The mare has won three of her four starts over hurdles but is facing a big step up in class.

"She seems in good form and will love the soft ground," said Elliott.

"If we get some black-type we'll be delighted. She hasn't done a lot wrong to date."

Jessica Harrington saddles Gambling Girl, who bids to bounce back after a couple of disappointing runs in top company at the end of last year.

She looked a very smart prospect when scoring at Down Royal last November but failed to make any impression behind The Tullow Tank in two Grade One races subsequently.

"She's had a break and we would be a bit worried about the ground, but hopefully she'll run a nice race," said Harrington.