Noel Meade admits he is concerned about the ground for Road To Riches ahead of his run in tomorrow’s Guinness Kerry National at Listowel.
The 10-year-old endured a disappointing campaign last season with a second to Ballycasey in the PWC Champion Chase at Gowran the highlight, and has not got his head in front since November 2015.
Road To Riches hinted he retains a decent level of ability last time out at Galway, but Meade feels his charge is up against it this time in such testing conditions.
He said: “He’s in great form and takes his chance, but I think the ground will be unsuitable for him and I’m very, very concerned about it.
“He did get a bit tired last time at Galway, but that was his first run back from a long time off and the ground wasn’t suitable for him there either.
“When a horse is high up in the weights, it’s common for a trainer to use a claimer so I thought I’d give it a go here. To be able to take 7lb off on heavy ground is useful and that’s why Adam (Short) is on board.”
Road To Riches finished a close third behind Coneygree in the 2015 Cheltenham Gold Cup before occupying the same position a year later in the Ryanair, and Meade is hopeful he has the Gamut gelding back on track for the season ahead.
He added: “When a horse goes through what he has gone through, it’s hard to know when you’ve got them back to their best, but fingers crossed we can get him there.
“If he is back to where he was two seasons ago, off around a 17lb lower mark, he’d be a certainty.
Joseph O’Brien saddles three in the race with Slowmotion, who is currently disputing favouritism with Arbre De Vie, the mount of Mark Walsh.
At the age of five, Slowmotion is the youngest horse in the race, but O’Brien feels her run at Galway last time out will stand her in good stead.
He said: “She ran well in the Galway Plate and that’s a similar sort of race, very competitive, so I don’t think she’s too inexperienced.
“She’s in good form and we’re hoping she’ll run well.”
King Leon, who like Slowmotion is owned by JP McManus, also represents O’Brien with his trio completed by Arkwrisht, running in the Gigginstown colours.
O’Brien said: “It was a good run from King Leon at Galway last time over hurdles as he’d been off the track for a long time.
“We weren’t sure if we would make it back in time for this race and I’m not sure about how he’ll handle the ground either, but it was a good run last time and back over fences here, we’re hopeful of a good run.”
“Arkwrisht won well the last day and this is his first try in a handicap.
“It’s a very competitive race but he should run well.”
Another trainer with a strong hand is Gordon Elliot, who saddles Lord Scoundrel, Potters Point and A Toi Phil.
Davy Russell has opted to ride the latter while last year’s winning rider Lisa O’Neill gets the leg up on Potters Point.
Elliot said: “Lord Scoundrel probably has plenty of weight and this is a big ask for him, but he won the Galway Plate last year and he’s in good form.
“A Toi Phil ran very well at Galway and finished fourth in the Plate. The ground will be very soft and that’ll be a worry, but we’re looking forward to running him.
“It’s hard to say if he’s my best chance, but he looks like he has a very good chance.
“Potters Point is a novice and he’s in good form. Lisa O’Neill takes 5lb off and hopefully he runs well.
“He’s had a wind operation this year and should go well.”
The 18-strong field also features two British-trained runners with Tempestatefloresco representing Colin Tizzard and Viva Steve making the journey over the Irish Sea for Fergal O’Brien.