Monksland continues comeback
Monksland seeks to take another major step forward ahead of the Cheltenham Festival following a two-year lay-off when he lines up for the John Mulhern Galmoy Hurdle at Gowran on Thursday.
County Meath trainer Noel Meade was pleased with the eight-year-old's comeback run at Leopardstown when he was third to Lieutenant Colonel in the Christmas Hurdle, a race he had won the last time he graced the track in 2012.
Though Meade fears conditions will be far from perfect for Monksland, he needs to give him a second run before the Ladbrokes World Hurdle on March 12.
"He ran well at Christmas. We are hoping he can come on a bit from that and put up a good show," he said.
"He was staying on well and we are looking for a little more improvement.
"The ground won't be ideal, but it's the only place we can go and we have to run him between now and Cheltenham."
Dedigout cheered his trainer Tony Martin when sixth in the Christmas Hurdle in his first start for over a year and he has been happy with the nine-year-old, owned by Gigginstown House Stud, since then.
"He ran well at Leopardstown the other day. It was his first run for 13 months and he's come out of it well," said the County Meath handler.
"It's a very competitive race and we're hoping he'll run well. It was a good-class race the other day and this is another good race."
Willie Mullins saddles two leading contenders in Briar Hill and Zaidpour, with both on retrieval missions after being well beaten in the Christmas Hurdle.
The quintet is completed by Cause Of Causes, who has his first run over the smaller obstacles since the Galway Hurdle some 17 months ago.
Trainer Gordon Elliott is giving him a good opportunity to regain his confidence after disappointing over fences in his last two starts - last season's Irish Grand National and the Drinmore Novice Chase.
"We're looking to get a confidence-booster into him. He needs to improve on his last couple of runs, so we'll see how we get on," said Elliott.