Ground concern for First
Mouse Morris believes the ground is more of a concern than the trip for First Lieutenant in Friday's rearranged Ryanair Novice Chase.
The dual Grade One-winning hurdler ran easily his best race over fences when second to Bobs Worth in the three-mile RSA Chase at Cheltenham last month and drops right back to two miles in Friday's contest which was originally scheduled for Thursday's card at Punchestown.
Morris admits his stable star is better over a longer trip, but with conditions set to ride very testing, he is not keen on giving his charge a slog in the mud at this relatively early stage of his career.
"The ground is going to be soft and he has won a Grade One over hurdles over two miles, so hopefully he'll be all right with the trip," said the trainer.
"The main question is whether he will handle the ground or not, but we can't do anything about it and we'll take what comes.
"It was a choice between running in this or running him in the Gold Cup and I didn't want to empty him over three miles on this ground, as he's still an immature horse."
Also dropping back in distance is the Philip Hobbs-trained Menorah, who finally got his act together over fences in the two-and-a-half-mile Manifesto Novices' Chase at Aintree.
Hobbs told At The Races: "He's coming back to two miles but that shouldn't be a problem. It should be fine.
"It was a great relief at Aintree. When everything was going wrong earlier in the season he was still jumping most of the fences well. Hopefully he's got more confidence now."
Joining Menorah on the trip from Britain is Kumbeshwar, who has been performing well in both novice and handicap company this season for Alan King.
"He ran really well both at Cheltenham and Aintree, and he has finished in the frame in his last seven races and seems to go on any ground," the trainer told his website www.alankingracing.co.uk.
"He was second to Grandouet in the Champion Novice Hurdle there last year, so I hope he will again be in the money."
Blackstairmountain has been well held in the Irish Arkle at Leopardstown and in the Arkle itself at Cheltenham the last twice and his trainer, Willie Mullins, said: "It's a tough little race and I think the ground has probably gone for him."
Lucky William is an interesting contender for Tom Cooper following his recent success at Fairyhouse, while Shot From The Hip and Regal D'Estruval complete the line-up.