Sir Des Champs back in business at Thurles for Willie Mullins
Three-times Grade One winner Sir Des Champs will make his first competitive appearance in almost two years in the Boomerang Animal Bedding And Boomerang Horse & Country Store Chase at Thurles.
A dual Cheltenham Festival hero for Willie Mullins and runner-up to Bobs Worth in the 2013 Cheltenham Gold Cup, the nine-year-old has been sidelined by injury since finishing fourth behind the same horse in the Lexus Chase nine months later.
It has been a long road back for the Gigginstown House Stud-owned Sir Des Champs and stud manager Eddie O'Leary is keeping his fingers crossed for a clear round.
He said: "He's well, but he's obviously going to need the run badly. It will be nice to get him out close to home and hopefully he gets round and comes home safe and sound.
"We're hoping everything goes well and he's all right on Friday morning, that's the main thing."
Sir Des Champs is set to face five rivals in the Listed heat over two and three-quarter miles, with Robbie Hennessy's stable star Rubi Light conceding weight all round.
The 10-year-old won at Thurles and Wexford earlier in the year, before only making it as far as the third fence in the Grand National at Aintree.
Hennessy reports his charge in rude health on his first start since the Punchestown Festival in late April.
"He seems in great form. I couldn't be happier with him for this stage of the season," said the County Meath-based trainer.
"Andrew Lynch has been in to ride him for the last couple of weeks and has been very happy with him.
"He'll love the heavy ground. I'm sure he'll come on for the run, but, at the same time, he's as fit as we can get him at home.
"Hopefully he'll run a nice race and then we'll follow a similar programme to last year. We might even bring him over to England for a run or two in those veterans' races."
The highest-rated horse in the field is the Sandra Hughes-trained Lyreen Legend, who was sixth in the Cheltenham Gold Cup and the Punchestown Gold Cup last spring but has been out of action since then.
Letter Of Credit, Maggio and Mala Beach complete the line-up.