Briar Hill will take his chance in the Slaney Novice Hurdle
Last Updated: 03/01/14 12:49pm
Briar Hill: Will bid for a hat-trick at Naas
Briar Hill will take his chance in the Slaney Novice Hurdle at Naas rather than travel to Sandown for the Tolworth Hurdle.
The winner of the Champion Bumper at last season's Cheltenham Festival was one of four entries for Willie Mullins in the Grade One contest at the Surrey track but connections have opted to stay closer to home.
Sunday's Grade Two contest is over a distance of two and a half miles and has just four runners declared including Upazo, a stablemate of Briar Hill who has also been declared for the Sandown contest the previous day.
Briar Hill has won both of his starts over hurdles and is among the market leaders for all three novice races at the Cheltenham Festival.
Briar Hill has to concede at least 7lb to his rivals, but is likely to be long odds-on to do so in the hands of Ruby Walsh.
Mullins said: "We have been very pleased with him since Navan and we're looking forward to the race on Sunday. He has to give weight away, but we have to take our chance and see what happens. We're hoping the ground will be all right for him."
The other runners are Apache Jack, a wide margin winner of his maiden, and Very Wood who finished fifth behind The Tullow Tank in the Grade One Royal Bond when last seen.
Noel Meade relies upon Very Wood, having decided against saddling the exciting Apache Stronghold. The latter was due to meet Briar Hill in the Navan Novice Hurdle until a last-minute setback meant he had to be withdrawn.
Meade said: "We just decided not to run the two of them against each other. He (Apache Stronghold) is fine. Briar Hill is giving us (Very Wood) 10lb, which will be a help, but he has been very impressive and you'd imagine he'll be hard to beat.
"I do think the trip will suit our horse and the ground will be in his favour as well, so we'll see how we get on."