The fast-improving Kilfenora is among those who will take on dual Grand National hero Tiger Roll in the Ladbrokes Ireland Boyne Hurdle at Navan on Sunday.
The remarkable Tiger Roll was a shock 25-1 winner of the Grade Two contest 12 months ago, before going on to claim his fourth Cheltenham Festival success in the Glenfarclas Chase and successfully defend his crown at Aintree.
This weekend’s two-mile-five-furlong contest is viewed as a stepping-stone back to Cheltenham and potentially Aintree for Gordon Elliott’s charge on what is his seasonal reappearance, whereas Kilfenora is stepping up in class following lucrative handicap wins at Naas and Navan.
Kilfenora’s trainer, Eddie Harty, said: “He’s come out of his two wins well. He’s won his way up the bar, so realistically you have to look at these type of races.
“In handicaps he’s going to be top weight or close to it. He’s won his way to having a chance at one of these, so we’re going to test the water on Sunday. He deserves to be there.”
Tiger Roll is one of two Elliott-trained runners, along with Cracking Smart, while Willie Mullins saddles Penhill, Killultagh Vic and Bachasson. The latter has not been seen in competitive action since finishing fourth when a hot favourite for this race a year ago.
Last year’s Grand National runner-up Magic Of Light renews rivalry with Tiger Roll following successive wins in Britain this winter, while Joseph O’Brien’s Darasso has been declared for both this race and Saturday’s Red Mills Trial Hurdle at Gowran Park.
Brace Yourself (Noel Meade) and Fine Rightly (Stuart Crawford) complete the 10-strong field.
The other Grade Two on Sunday’s card is the Ten Up Novice Chase over three miles.
Elliott’s pair of Elwood and Milan Native, the Noel Meade-trained duo of First Approach and Minella Fair and O’Brien’s Speak Easy are among seven declared runners.
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