Gordon Elliott could not be happier with Shattered Love as the mare faces only four rivals in the John Durkan Memorial Punchestown Chase on Sunday.
The seven-year-old proved she was very capable of mixing it outside of her own sex with a dominant display in the JLT Novices’ Chase at the Cheltenham Festival in March.
Although beaten on her return to action at Down Royal by Noel Meade’s Snow Falcon, Elliott has targeted this race ever since and the fact Gold Cup favourite Presenting Percy was a late defector is no doubt an added bonus.
“Shattered Love is in good shape,” said Elliott.
“We’ve had this race in mind for her since she ran at Down Royal just over a month ago and she looks to have come on well over the last few weeks.
“The John Durkan obviously represents a step up in class, but she showed last season that she is a high-class mare who can hold her own in open company and I couldn’t be happier with her at the moment.
“I’d expect a good effort from her.”
Elliott also runs The Storyteller, himself a Cheltenham Festival winner in the Brown Advisory & Merriebelle Stable Plate, but he was even further behind in the Down Royal race.
“The Storyteller also ran in the Down Royal race when the lack of a recent run counted against him,” Elliott went on.
“We’ve made no secret that some of our horses have been coming on for a run this season and I’ve been happy with him since then.
“He’s in very good form at home, so it will be interesting to see how he gets on.
“His run here at Punchestown will probably tell us what direction we need to take with him for the rest of the season.”
Henry de Bromhead’s Ryanair winner Balko Des Flos was another to be beaten at Down Royal on his return to action, in the Champion Chase won by the Meade-trained Road To Respect.
Willie Mullins runs Min, who took in all three spring festivals last year, finishing second to Altior and Politologue at Cheltenham and Aintree respectively, before those exertions possibly took their toll when only fourth to Un De Sceaux at Punchestown.
Assistant trainer Patrick Mullins said: “It’s a very competitive race and Balko Des Flos, the Ryanair winner, is the one to beat at this trip.
“I know Min got beat on his only try over this trip by Politologue at Aintree, but it’s a great place to start. It’s a great race and it should set us up for Christmas nicely.
“He’s quite a keen-going sort, he might get further in time but it looked like he just didn’t get home. That was after a hard race at Cheltenham, though, so this will let us know more about our options afterwards.”
Completing the field is Joseph O’Brien’s Edwulf, an emotional winner of the Irish Gold Cup in February having almost died a year earlier at Cheltenham.
He failed to reproduce that level of form at Cheltenham and Punchestown afterwards.
Owner JP McManus’ racing manager Frank Berry said: “He disappointed a little at Punchestown, so we’re hoping he can bounce back.
“Joseph is happy with him, but obviously it’s his first run for a while and we’re sure it will bring him on a fair bit.
“He’s going there in good order, though, and he’s pleased Joseph at home.”