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Hughes launches Aintree attack

Launchpad carries the hopes of Ireland in the Matalan Anniversary 4-Y-O Juvenile Hurdle at Aintree on Thursday.

Dessie Hughes's Thurles winner faces a tough task, though, because he must take on impressive JCB Triumph Hurdle winner Zarkandar.

Paul Nicholls` French import looked a class act at Cheltenham when comfortably disposing of Dermot Weld's Unaccompanied, who went on to win a Listed race on the Flat at the Curragh on Sunday.

The Nicky Henderson-trained Grandouet, who was third, takes him on again as do other Triumph also-rans - Third Intention, Houblon Des Obeaux and Local Hero. Steve Gollings has been delighted with the way the latter has come out of the Triumph and he is happy to let him take his chance in another Grade One.

"He's done well since Cheltenham surprisingly, because that was a very hectic race. He missed a couple of hurdles but came out totally unscathed and it was quite surprising as we thought he might come back with a few lumps and bumps," said the Lincolnshire trainer.

"He's in good shape. They've all been on the go a fair while but it's the same for all of them. He's holding his own and I wouldn't be running him if I wasn't happy with him. I'm sure Aintree will suit him a lot better than Cheltenham and I'm almost certain that long-term he probably wants further.

"He was on his head at Cheltenham and it could be a similar story at Aintree, but the ground will be more in his favour there and I also think it is the wrong time to step him up in trip. He could have gone for the Mersey over two and a half on Saturday but that looks a hot race as well. He's only a juvenile once so he might as well take his chance."

Alan King has declared Kumbeshwar, who was second in the Fred Winter Juvenile Handicap Hurdle at Cheltenham and finished third to Zarkandar before that at Kempton.

John Quinn saddles the in-form Palawi, successful at Sedgefield and Stratford on his last two starts, while Maoi Chinn Tire and hurdling newcomer Oriental Cat make up the numbers.

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