Meade trio on Cork National trail
Noel Meade is keeping his fingers crossed Tom Horn can defy a rise in the weights as the Munster National runner-up bids to go one better in the Paddy Power Cork Grand National.
The JP McManus-owned eight-year-old bolted up at Sligo at the start of October and ran a tremendous race turned out less than a fortnight later at Limerick, going down by three-quarters of a length to fellow McManus runner Shanpallas.
Tom Horn is one of three runners in Sunday's 50,000 euro feature for County Meath-based Meade, with Ipsos Du Berlais and Protaras also in contention.
"Tom Horn ran well when second in the Munster National, but he's creeping up the weights and was put up another 4lb for that effort, which is a bit of a minus. He wants goodish ground," said the trainer.
"Protaras was staying on all the time last time and this is three and a half miles. I think this will be his last run for the moment and he sort of minds himself in a race.
"Ipsos Du Berlais stays well and is in good form and was third in the Paddy Power Chase at Leopardstown. Stamina is his forte and he keeps plugging away."
Unoccupied makes his first appearance since winning at the Punchestown Festival in the spring and has the invaluable assistance of Ruby Walsh in the saddle. Trainer Eoghan O'Grady admits the lack of a recent outing is a concern, however.
O'Grady said: " This race has always been the plan and he's in good form. We'd have preferred to have got a run into him beforehand, but the ground has been too fast. Hopefully he'll run a good, solid race."
Shark Hanlon believes Nearest The Pin has a "serious chance", despite the burden of top weight. The trainer also saddles outsider Darenjan.
"Nearest The Pin has top weight but has been running well from big weights this year and this might be his last run of 2014 before I let him off," said Hanlon.
"I'm not sure if he stays the trip but he will be ridden to stay it and if he does, he has a serious chance.
"Darenjan ran a cracker at Cheltenham last time and was unlucky that a loose horse brought him down at the second-last.
"He will love the trip and the ground and I think that the two horses have a right chance."
Other interesting contenders include Robert Tyner's recent Roscommon scorer Dushrembrandt and Colin Bowe-trained Downpatrick winner Kashline.