Gordon Elliott is confident a drop in distance will not inconvenience Andy Dufresne in the Sky Bet Moscow Flyer Novice Hurdle.
The Cullentra handler possessed a strong hand at the five-day stage, but relies solely on the JP McManus-owned six-year-old to provide him with a second successive win in the two-mile Grade Two following the victory of Felix Desjy 12 months ago.
Andy Dufresne cost £330,000 after impressing in his sole point-to-point – and he lived up to his tall reputation with hugely impressive displays on his first two starts under Rules at Down Royal and Navan.
However, he lost his aura of invincibility when suffering a shock defeat in last month’s Navan Novice Hurdle, having to make do with the runner-up spot behind Paul Nolan’s Latest Exhibition.
“Andy Dufresne got beaten by a very good horse of Paul Nolan’s last time and he’s been in good shape since then,” said Elliott.
“The way he jumps and travels, two miles should be no problem for him.”
Andy Dufresne is set to face five rivals at Punchestown, with Joseph O’Brien saddling both Anything Will Do and Meticulous.
Anything Will Do counts two course and distance wins among his four victories from just five career starts, while Meticulous is thrown in at the deep end on his hurdling bow – his first competitive appearance since finishing eighth in last season’s Champion Bumper.
“Both Anything Will Do and Meticulous are in good shape,” O’Brien said on Friday morning.
“Anything Will Do is a very consistent horse with solid form and if he runs his race again, hopefully he’ll be able to give Andy Dufresne a run for his money
“It would look a tough ask for Meticulous, having his first run over hurdles, but it comes to a point in the season when you want to get him out.
“His bumper form has worked out very well and there is no doubt that he is a decent horse, so we look forward to seeing what he can do over obstacles- we are looking forward to getting him started.”
The formidable combination of Henry de Bromhead and Rachael Blackmore is represented by once-raced Navan winner Captain Guinness.
Both John Ryan’s The Little Yank and Shanroe from Karl Thornton’s yard will be big outsiders.
The Grade Three Killiney Novice Chase throws up an intriguing clash between the Willie Mullins-trained Carefully Selected and Martin Brassil’s Cheltenham Festival hero City Island.
Carefully Selected made a successful start to his career over fences at Fairyhouse in late November, whereas last season’s Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle winner City Island was eventually pulled following an error strewn round of jumping on his chasing debut at Leopardstown.
Elliott saddles Dallas Des Pictons, who was a 20-length winner on his chasing bow at Gowran, but finished a well-beaten fifth on his next start in a Grade Three at Cork.
“Dallas Des Pictons has had a light season so far, but he began to thrive this time last year and I’m looking forward to seeing him back in the novice chase this weekend,” said Elliott.
Michael Bowe’s Halsafari, Matthew Smith’s Lord Schnitzel and O’Brien’s Speak Easy complete the sextet.