Cheltenham Festival runner-up Discorama heads the weights for the Ladbrokes Troytown Chase at Navan.
Part-owned by Andrew Gemmell, of Paisley Park fame, the Paul Nolan-trained Discorama came mighty close to victory at Prestbury Park in March – going down by just half a length to Le Breuil in the National Hunt Chase.
He rounded off his season by chasing home Delta Work in Grade One company at the Punchestown Festival, and made a pleasing reappearance when runner-up to Champagne Classic in a Listed event at Wexford last month.
Nolan expects that run to leave his stable star spot on for Sunday’s 100,000 euro feature – and while he is at the top of the weights on 11st 10lb, talented conditional Sean O’Keeffe takes 5lb off his back.
Nolan said: “It’s never easy in these big handicaps with top-weight, but when you’re kind of in between levels there aren’t many options.
“We’re taking 5lb off his back with Sean riding. He seems in good form – we’ve been happy with him since his run in Wexford, and the track should suit him.
“With a clear round, he should give a good account of himself.”
The Enniscorthy-based trainer has a second string to his bow in Fitzhenry, who warmed up for this race by finishing third over hurdles at Galway four weeks ago.
“He definitely has a chance as well. He ran a nice race over hurdles in Galway and hopefully he’s come on for that,” Nolan added.
“He’s a consistent horse, albeit he hasn’t got his head in front that many times. I hope he’ll give a good account of himself, too.”
Fitzhenry is one of nine runners for leading owner JP McManus, with John Kiely’s Portmore Lough, Aidan Howard’s Winter Escape and Joseph O’Brien’s Tower Bridge also among his formidable squad.
Gordon Elliott saddled four successive winners of the Troytown between 2014 and 2017 – and is once again mob-handed.
The Cullentra handler saddles seven runners in Noble Endeavor (Keith Donoghue), Ravenhill (Davy Russell), Woods Well (Kevin Sexton), Roaring Bull (Donagh Meyler), Gun Digger (Kevin Brogan), The Big Lense (Mark Enright) and Timiyan (Phillip Enright).
Grade Three honours are up for grabs in the “Monksfield” Novice Hurdle.
Elliot has claimed this prize three times in the last five seasons – with Free Expression (2014), Death Duty (2016) and Samcro (2017) – and this year fires a twin assault, with Abacadabras joined by stablemate Fury Road.
A top-class bumper performer last season, Abacadabras is two from two over hurdles thus far – most recently landing the Grade Three For Auction Novice Hurdle at this venue a fortnight ago. Fury Road won by 18 lengths on his hurdling debut at Down Royal.
The biggest threat to the Elliott pair is a third Gigginstown House Stud-owned runner in Noel Meade’s Sixshooter – although he was also declared to run at Gowran Park on Saturday.
Joseph O’Brien’s Entoucas sets the standard in the opening maiden hurdle, having finished third behind Elliott’s potential superstar Envoi Allen on his first start over hurdles at Down Royal.
Elliott’s Thatsy and the Willie Mullins-trained Francin are among his opponents.
The beginners chase is similarly interesting, with O’Brien’s high-class hurdler Triplicate taken on by Meade’s pair of Red Jack and Valdieu and the Mullins-trained Cash Back.
It is unlikely many racegoers will be making an early exit, with a clutch of quality mares contesting the concluding Listed bumper.
The star attraction is Elliott’s Bigbadandbeautiful, who impressed at this level at Gowran Park in early October and will be well fancied to give weight and a beating to her 10 rivals.