The Henry de Bromhead-trained Monalee will ramp up his preparations for the Cheltenham Festival when taking on three high class rivals in the Grade 2 Red Mills Chase at Gowran Park on Saturday.
Grade 1 winner Monalee was last seen when chasing home Kemboy in the Savills Chase at Leopardstown at Christmas and the eight-year-old was this week left in both the Magners Gold Cup and the Ryanair Chase at the Cheltenham Festival.
De Bromhead is aiming to win the Red Mills Chase for a second time having been previously successful with Smashing in 2016.
“We need to get a run in to Monalee and the Red Mills Chase looks like a good opportunity to do that,” de Bromhead said.
“I’m not sure what the race will tell us in regards to future plans but I hope the trip on Saturday should be ideal for him. We didn’t run him at Leopardstown because of the ground but thankfully we’ve had a bit more rain down the country and the ground at Gowran Park should be fine.
“Monalee seems in good form and he needs a run. Any option after this weekend was just getting a little close to Cheltenham so we look forward to getting him back out. Gowran Park has been a lucky track for us down through the years.”
Killultagh Vic, one of three Grade 1 winners in the race, will represent champion trainer Willie Mullins at his local track, while 2018 Irish Gold Cup winner Edwulf and the Tony Martin-trained Anibale Fly complete the line up.
Mullins is looking forward to getting Killultagh Vic back over fences for the first time this season.
The trainer said on Friday morning: “We have run him twice over hurdles this season and he had a very good run in the Galmoy Hurdle at Gowran Park last month.
“We have decided to let him take his chance back over fences as he is suited by the conditions of the race but it is going to be a tough contest for him at this trip which is short of his best distance. But it is our local track and it is nice ground so we we’ll see how he jumps back over fences and see where we go then.”
Edwulf provided one of the most memorable moments of last season when he completed a miraculous comeback to win the Irish Gold Cup at Leopardstown for trainer Joseph O’Brien and owner JP McManus. Regular rider Derek O’Connor will once again partner the 10-year-old.
“Edwulf takes his chance on Saturday with the ground appearing suitable for him,” O’Brien said.
“We’ve given him an entry in the Grand National at Aintree but that is only option at the moment and tomorrow might tell us a bit more about where we are going for the rest of the season. He’s in good form.”
The famous McManus silks will also be carried in the Red Mills Chase by Anibale Fly who has been declared by trainer Tony Martin to make just his second start of the season. Last year’s Gold Cup third is being aimed at a return to the Cheltenham Festival next month.
Speaking earlier this week, Martin said: “It’s important to get a run into him before Cheltenham and we were running out of options.
“He’s a top class horse and what he did in Cheltenham in the Gold Cup last year was a great performance so hopefully we can try and get him back there again next month.”
Last year’s winner Forge Meadow heads a field of seven for the Grade 3 Red Mills Trial Hurdle.
Gordon Elliott has declared Triumph Hurdle winner Farclas and this current promising juvenile hurdler Coeur Sublime, while Colin Kidd’s stable star Rashaan will return to hurdles for the €60,000 contest.
Harrington said: “Forge Meadow won the race last year and it made sense to bring her back to Gowran Park again. She would probably like the ground to be a bit softer than it is but she hasn’t really run a bad race all season. We’ve had to take her back from jumping fences and this was a nice race to go for so we’ll hope for the best.”
The first on a seven race card is off at 1.20pm. Here is a link to buy tickets online, which are available up to 11am on Saturday 16th February.