Marito primed for an Ulster success
Crossgar-based trainer Colin McBratney is confident Marito is back to his best ahead of a tough assignment against Down Royal hero Roi Du Mee.
Marito and Roi Du Mee - winner of the 2013 JNwine.com Champion Chase at the Down Royal Festival - filled the first two places in Tramore's Listed At The Races Chase last year and clash again in the feature.
Roi Du Mee, who won the two-mile-five-furlong race in 2013, shared favouritism with Marito last term, but there was no doubting the latter's superiority as he comfortably prevailed.
It has certainly not been plain sailing for Marito since, though, with the eight-year-old sustaining an injury that required three months box rest.
McBratney reports Marito to have made unexpectedly rapid progress in his recovery.
He said: "It was a case of him coming back quicker than we ever thought he would.
"I didn't think he'd be running until February or March, those were the indications we were getting from the vets.
"He just came back a lot quicker than we anticipated. He got the time he needed and we just kept working away slowly."
The German-bred, runner-up to Ulster-owned Hurricane Fly - winner of the Ryanair Hurdle at Leopardstown on Monday - in the Grade One Morgiana Hurdle at Punchestown in November 2013, impressed when taking a recent Kirkistown point-to-point.
The County Down handler added: "He's in great form. He won his point-to-point. I don't know how good he is but he seems well in himself and he's working really well so he'll not be far away.
"He never came off the bridle when he won his point and the horse he beat (Oscar Barton) went and won the hunters chase at Down Royal as easily as Marito had beaten him.
"He's won around the track, so we'll go and take our chance.
"The first day he ran he needed the run, he's as fit as I can get him but he may even improve."
Niall Madden rides Marito, Bryan Cooper favouring Roi Du Mee over fellow Gigginstown House Stud-owned Rathlin.
Cooper was in the saddle when Roi Du Mee won the £100,000 Down Royal showpiece.
At Fairyhouse, Larne trainer Stuart Crawford is double-handed in the opener with Backinthesaddle and Nendrum. He also has Fiftyshortshirocco in the last, the trainer's brother Steven Crawford aboard.