GUITAR PETE (6/1), a dual Grade 1 juvenile hurdle winner in 2014, found 3m on heavy ground too taxing when behind Thistlecrack over hurdles at Cheltenham in January, but that defeat can be excused and he ran a big race when third in a valuable C&D handicap chase (also on heavy ground) two starts ago. He ought to be better suited by the less-testing conditions today, has the assistance of Ruby Walsh and might have too much class for today’s opposition.
The main danger could be Balnagon Boy, who has taken well to chasing since returning from a long absence this season and was a 2m course winner in November. He returns here after two good runs in defeat over 2m4f and won’t be bothered by the drop back in trip for today’s handicap chase debut.
Solita has failed to complete both her chases since winning over 2m here in November but got back on track with a hard-fought hurdle success at Leopardstown (2m, soft) last month and is only 1lb higher back in this sphere. Bishopslough was only beaten about 2l in fifth that day and is still lightly raced over fences, but he reverts to chasing on a much higher mark and may prove vulnerable.
Dysios produced a game performance to beat I’m All You Need in a gruelling contest at Leopardstown (2m1f, heavy) on Boxing Day but is more exposed than some of these and a minor role might be his best hope this time.
Caolaneoin ran his best race for ages and finally got off the mark (at the 16th attempt) over fences when causing a 20-1 surprise at Naas (2m, heavy) this month, but was almost certainly flattered by the way that very strongly run event panned out and doesn’t usually find much for pressure.
Westerner Point enjoyed recent success when making all at Wexford (2m, soft) ten days ago and is evidently in good heart, but will probably find it harder to dominate this stronger field.