Ned Buntline is pick of Noel's bunch
Noel Meade heads for his local track at Navan this afternoon with a couple of smart horses, not least Ned Buntline in what promises to be an informative beginners' chase.
The former champion trainer was denied the opportunity to test Apache Stronghold in Grade One company at the Co Meath venue last Sunday when the exciting hurdler developed a foot abscess.
None of Meade's five runners this afternoon are likely to prove quite as capable as him, but Ned Buntline has certainly shown a decent level of ability.
Second to Jezki in a Leopardstown bumper in January 2012, he had Milan Bound and today's Ladbroke-bound City Slicker behind when getting off the mark at the second time of asking at Naas a year ago.
On the last of three hurdle starts, the JP McManus-owned five-year-old chased up Mozoltov and Don Cossack at Punchestown, and he didn't do an awful lot wrong when third behind the potentially high-class Ballycasey on his fencing bow here last month.
Mount Colah snatched second that day, when Ned Buntline's tendency to jump to his left most likely took its toll in the end.
Still, his technique was otherwise quite good and Paul Carberry can be trusted to help him in the jumping department.
Moscow Mannon and Irish Thistle are his two most feared rivals in a race that boasts plenty of depth, but Ned Buntline's race-fitness should give him an edge.
The other Tu Va Stables runner of particular note is the Nina Carberry-ridden Wounded Warrior. Third behind Shaneshill – which hosed up in a winners' race since – at Naas on his track bow, Gigginstown Stud's spring point-to-point winner should be a more potent proposition right now.
Willie Mullins' Killultagh Vic is the danger, but the selection has the form in the book. The champion trainer might also deliver for the ubiquitous maroon and white silks courtesy of runaway Cork victor Valseur Lido in the novices' hurdle, while Gigginstown's French import Don Poli has more to do for Davy Russell in the maiden, but he could still be good enough to win.
Meanwhile, Nicky Henderson has been forced to rule out Arkle Trophy hero Simonsig for the season.
A winner at the last two Cheltenham Festivals, having landed the Neptune Novices' Hurdle in 2012, the grey met with a setback earlier in this campaign but was expected to be back in time for the major races in the spring.
However, Henderson revealed: "We've got to the point to make a decision to finish for the season. He's sound and will be in general exercise. Hopefully he'll be ready for the King George next year."