Ruby Walsh is looking forward to partnering Kemboy for only the second time in the Betway Bowl at Aintree.
The Voix Du Nord gelding was the shortest priced of four runners in last month’s Cheltenham Gold Cup for Willie Mullins, but unseated the trainer’s nephew David after the very first fence.
The seven-year-old returned to Ireland none the worse and travels to Merseyside in a bid to provide Mullins with a second victory in the race – after he struck gold with the popular Florida Pearl in 2002.
Walsh has not ridden Kemboy on a racecourse since he made a winning Irish debut in a Limerick maiden hurdle in December 2016, but is positive about his chances on Thursday.
Walsh told Racing TV: “His form heading into Cheltenham was rock solid. He was very good in Leopardstown at Christmas, he won the Clonmel Oil and carried top-weight to win a novice handicap in Punchestown at the backend of last season. He’s an improving horse.
“I don’t know if he over jumped or knuckled over at the back of the first fence in the Gold Cup. It’s quite hard to see it on the replays, but he was a bit of distance from the back of the fence, which makes you think it maybe wasn’t the jump that got him.
“He’s come out of Cheltenham well – he’s fresh and seems to be in great order.
“He didn’t have the race in Cheltenham that Bristol De Mai and Clan Des Obeaux had, Road To Respect ran a really good race in the Ryanair and Balko Des Flos has probably struggled this season to recapture the form he had last year.
“Elegant Escape is the other runner. He won the Welsh Grand National and ran OK in the Gold Cup.
“It is a good renewal, but I think Aintree will really suit Kemboy and he seems to be in good form.”
The Nigel Twiston-Davies-trained Bristol De Mai filled the runner-up spot behind Might Bite in this Grade One contest 12 months ago – and the dual Betfair Chase hero returns at the top of his game on Thursday, after finishing a creditable third in the Gold Cup.
Having impressed in winning the King George VI Chase at Kempton and the rescheduled Denman Chase at Ascot, Paul Nicholls’ Clan Des Obeaux was widely regarded as the chief British hope for the Gold Cup – along with defending champion Native River.
After travelling strongly, the seven-year-old weakened into fifth place, but is likely to be better suited by Aintree’s flatter track.
Kemboy is one of three Irish raiders, along with Henry de Bromhead’s Balko Des Flos and Road To Respect from Noel Meade’s yard.
Balko Des Flos has plenty to prove, having been largely disappointing since running out a brilliant winner of the Ryanair Chase at last year’s Cheltenham Festival.
Three-time Grade One winner Road To Respect has sound claims, however, after finishing third behind Frodon in the Ryanair last month.
The small but select field is completed by Colin Tizzard’s Welsh Grand National hero and Gold Cup sixth Elegant Escape.