It's difficult to ignore the claims of ROMANESCO, who finished runner-up to the gambled-on Colbert Station over fences at Leopardstown's Christmas fixture. The winner has since reverted to hurdles and beaten a huge field so Gordon Elliot is taking the same route with the eight-year-old, who can run from a 19lb lower mark than over the bigger obstacles. Missie Ella won a novices' handicap at Thurles then ran well under a penalty at Leopardstown while Miss Xian brought her stamina into play when scoring over 2m7f here last month. The Amarillo Kid, who has been running over fences, could find the ground too testing but Mister First gained an emphatic victory over the course and distance last time and even an 11lb rise shouldn't prevent another big effort.
The Amarillo Kid (IRE) 14-1 (11-5) Held up in 5th, 4th after 4 out, ridden in 3rd 3 out, kept on same pace from next, 3rd of 6, 6l behind Catcherinscratcher (10-12) at Killarney 2m 6f nov chs in Jul.
Mister First (FR) 5-1 (11-12) Waited with towards rear, closed straight, led between last 2 and quickened clear from before last, stayed on well run-in, easily, won at Fairyhouse 2m 4f nov hcp hdl 80-102 hvy in Jan beating Peace In The West (11-4) by 10l, 7 ran.
Romanesco (FR) 20-1 (10-4) Held up towards rear, headway from 2 out, ridden into 8th entering straight, 3rd last, kept on to 2nd run-in, 2nd of 28, 6l behind Colbert Station (10-11) at Leopardstown 3m hcp chs 0-145 sft in Dec.
Dactik (IRE) 14-1 (10-10) Towards rear, 12th after 2 out, kept on without threatening, 9th of 23, 25l behind Shariyan (10-11) at Leopardstown 2m 2f hcp hdl 80-116 sft in Dec.
Dunroe Boy (IRE) 8-1 (11-7) Closed up and disputed lead, a bit slow and headed from last, drifted left run-in, demoted to 4th, in a race won by Miss Xian (11-6) at Fairyhouse 2m 7f hcp hdl 80-109 hvy in Jan, 9 ran.
Living Next Door (IRE) 10-1 (10-7) Held up towards rear, moderate 14th 2 out, no impression, 14th of 26, 31l behind Shariyan (11-1) at Leopardstown 2m 4f hcp hdl 8Evens23 in Jan.
Maccas Lad (IRE) 16-1 (11-5) Tracked leaders, 5th 3 out, soon ridden and no extra, 5th of 17, 30l behind Jennies Jewel (11-2) at Naas 2m 3f mdn hdl in Jan.
Miss Xian (IRE) 5-2fav (11-6) Soon tracked leaders, on terms before straight, led run-in and stayed on well to hold on at the finish, won at Fairyhouse 2m 7f hcp hdl 80-109 hvy in Jan beating Preswell Lad (10-5) by 1/2l, 9 ran.
Missie Ella (IRE) 9-4fav (10-11) Close up early, soon settled behind leaders, in pursuit of winner and struggling to get there from before straight, kept on same pace, 2nd of 12, 4 1/2l behind Dazzlers Day (10-9) at Limerick 2m 5f hcp hdl 80-102 hvy in Dec.