Cilaos Emery bids to confirm the excellent impression he made at Naas last month when he lines up for the Kerry Group Hilly Way Chase at Cork on Sunday.
The Willie Mullins-trained seven-year-old was considered a major contender for the Arkle Trophy at last season’s Cheltenham Festival following an impressive chasing debut at Gowran Park, but was subsequently ruled out for the remainder of the season with injury.
Despite a lengthy absence, Cilaos Emery appeared better than ever when readily accounting for the high-class Ornua on his return to action in the Poplar Square Chase – and he will be well fancied to maintain his unbeaten record over fences.
However, with stablemate Great Field and fellow JP McManus-owned runner Ballyoisin among his rivals, Patrick Mullins – assistant to his father – feels the French-bred gelding’s task is far from straightforward.
Mullins said: “Cilaos Emery has a lot of talent, but he is short of experience after his novice year was cut short, and with Ballyoisin and Great Field up against him it will be a proper test.
“He was impressive in Naas and has been in great form since. If his inexperience doesn’t catch him out, hopefully he’ll run a big race.”
Great Field was the odds-on favourite for this Grade Two contest 12 months ago, but only made it as far as the second fence.
The eight-year-old also fell on his next at Leopardstown and finished down the field on his most recent outing at the Punchestown Festival, but Mullins junior feels it would be dangerous to leave him out of calculations.
He added: “I think Great Field is a bit of a forgotten horse. Things haven’t gone his way on his last couple of runs, but he’s a high-class horse on his day.
“It’s his first run of the season and we’re hoping he’ll have a clear round.”
Mullins has saddled eight of the last 10 winners of the Hilly Way Chase.
Taking him on this weekend are Enda Bolger’s aforementioned dual Fortria Chase winner Ballyoisin and Joseph O’Brien’s Us And Them.