Jody McGarvey cannot wait to get back on the “thrill-a-minute” Great Field in Sunday’s Kerry Group Hilly Way Chase at Cork.
The seven-year-old has only met with defeat once since joining Willie Mullins from France, when he was pulled up in the County Hurdle of 2016.
He has had two absences of almost a year – but there in no doubting that when he gets to the track it is hard to take your eyes off him due to his front-running style.
McGarvey is unbeaten in five rides on JP McManus’ seven-year-old and keeps the ride.
“He’s a very exciting horse and a thrill-a-minute to ride – it’s nice to be able to get back on him,” he said.
“He goes so hard from the front and has given us a few frights along the way, but when he’s on-song he’s brilliant.
“Horses who race like him get big followings. Sometimes the way they race can take away from how much ability they actually have.
“I’m five from five on him and I’ve yet to come up against a horse who can get him off the bridle and he’s had some decent horses behind him. He’s entitled to take his chance at the top level.
“He’s missed a fair bit of time, but if he stays in one piece hopefully we’ll see him at Cheltenham in March.”
He added: “I’m very grateful to Mr McManus for keeping me on him, another owner could have easily put their retained jockey on. It’s not often I get the chance to get on horses like him. Other owners wouldn’t be as loyal.”
Assistant trainer Patrick Mullins said: “He still has that ‘could be anything’ aura about him.
“Jody gets on extremely well with him – he is a white-knuckle ride.
“He jumped much better in Navan last season than he had as a novice and with the trip and ground to suit, you’d have to think he should be winning this.”
Second to Great Field at Navan last season was Gordon Elliott’s Doctor Phoenix, who takes him on again and has the benefit of a run, admittedly a slightly disappointing one at Clonmel behind Kemboy.
Will Smith, racing manager for his owners the Nick Bradley Racing Club, said: “Much depends on how much he’s come on for Clonmel. He improved with every run last season, and hopefully will do again.
“Great Field will be very tough to beat, but if we can pick up some prize money in behind we’ll be happy. At least we’ll get his ground.”
Elliott also runs A Toi Phil.
Pat Fahy’s Castlegrace Paddy looked a smart sort in winning his first two over fences last season, and while he was no match for Footpad at Punchestown, his trainer hopes there was a reason for that.
“Andrew (Lynch) just felt he wasn’t right on the day, he jumped sluggishly all the way and wasn’t giving him his usual feel, so maybe he wasn’t firing,” said Fahy.
“We’re happy enough if that’s the case and he’s still very lightly raced, so we hope there’s more to come.
“He’s in good form and I think we have him pretty straight. We’re looking forward to seeing where we are with him and where we go after Christmas.”
Tony Martin’s Anibale Fly was placed in the Gold Cup and Grand National last season, yet reappears over two miles.
McManus’ racing manager Frank Berry explained the reason why.
He said: “We just felt the ground at Punchestown for the John Durkan would have been a bit lively for him, so he’s heading to Cork where it will be more suitable.
“He’s in good form, but he will come on for the run. He’s just starting off and because of the way the ground has been we haven’t been able to get him out anywhere else.”
Henry de Bromhead’s 2017 Champion Chase winner Special Tiara and stablemate Three Stars run, as does Liam Burke’s Sumos Novios.