Shaneshill peaking for Navan test
Ruby Walsh believes Shaneshill will need to be at the top of his game as he bids to provide the leading rider and trainer Willie Mullins with a fourth successive victory in the Navan Novice Hurdle.
The master of Closutton and his stable jockey have struck gold with Boston Bob, Pont Alexandre and Briar Hill in recent years, while Mikael D'Haguenet was also victorious for the champion trainer back in 2008.
Briar Hill beat just one opponent in a disappointing race 12 months ago and the two-and-a-half-mile contest has this year been downgraded from Grade One to Grade Two status, but a fascinating race is still in prospect.
Shaneshill, runner-up in last season's Champion Bumper at the Cheltenham Festival before going one better in the equivalent event at Punchestown, made a fine start to his career over hurdles when winning readily at Fairyhouse last month.
"I'm really looking forward to it, as he's one of our better novices," Walsh said in his column in the Irish Examiner.
"He was very impressive on his hurdling debut at Fairyhouse, where he jumped well, travelled well and got the trip no problem.
"He seems to be working well at home, and I think he's a very good horse, but he'll have to be as I have a lot of respect for No More Heroes. Gordon Elliott's horse has a huge reputation, and looked very good winning his maiden hurdle.
"But, I think Shaneshill would slightly shade it on bumper form, and hopefully he can slightly shade it on hurdle form."
No More Heroes appears the biggest threat to the Mullins runner, having won a Dromahane point-to-point and a couple of bumpers before getting off the mark at the second attempt over hurdles at Punchestown last month.
Mullins admits the Gigginstown House Stud-owned five-year-old is the one to beat.
Speaking on his website, the trainer said: "(Shaneshill) won over this trip on his hurdling debut at Fairyhouse last month and showed plenty of stamina when winning the Champion Bumper at Punchestown.
"No More Heroes will take some beating, but we have to take our chance."
Noel Meade's Couleur France and Pulled Mussel from Robert Tyner's yard both arrive off the back of victories, while Colin Bowe's four-year-old Shantou Flyer completes the field.
The latter ran a fantastic race at 40-1 to fill the runner-up spot behind the Elliott-trained Free Expression over the course and distance last month.
Bowe said: "He ran very well there the last day. This is probably a better race, but he's improving with every run and the ground will be fine for him, so we're hoping he'll run a nice race."