Noel Meade has won this for the past two years and will be hoping for better things from Gran Torino, who has made too many errors on both starts over fences. He pulled up behind Royal De La Thinte on his debut at Punchestown and the latter, a dual point-to-point winner, looks a cracking recruit to the bigger obstacles. He had earlier finished seven lengths behind Bostons Angel on his chasing debut at Down Royal however, and a line through that winner, that gives him something to find with QUITO DE LA ROQUE and Western Charmer who occupied the places behind Jessica Harrington's charge in a Grade 1 at Leopardstown's Xmas fixture. Colm Murphy's six-year-old would probably have won in a few more strides and this Grade 2 looks within his capabilities.
Gran Torino (IRE) 5-1 (11-12) Chased leaders, bad mistake 2nd, soon lost place, pulled up before next, in a race won by Flat Out (11-9) at Punchestown 2m 4f beg chase hvy, 14 ran.
Quito De La Roque (FR) 10-3 (11-10) Chased leaders, 5th halfway, slight mistake 7 out, 4th when not fluent 2 out, ridden and no impression in 5th at last, stayed on well under pressure closing stages, not reach winner, 2nd of 9, 3/4l behind Bostons Angel (11-10) at Leopardstown 3m nov chs Grade 1 (4yo+) (1) in Dec.
Royal De La Thinte (FR) 9-2 (11-11) Led from 2nd, jumped well, 5 lengths advantage approaching 4 out, slightly hampered by loose horse early straight, drew clear before last, easily, won at Punchestown 3m beg chs hvy in Dec beating Alpha Ridge (11-12) by 10l, 11 ran.
Slippers Percy (IRE) 33-1 (11-9) Soon led, strongly pressed entering straight, hung left under pressure and headed before last, rallied to lead early run-in, edged left, kept on well, won at Thurles 3m beg chase sft beating Arabella Boy (11-12) by 4 1/2l, 15 ran.
Western Charmer (IRE) 20-1 (11-10) Always prominent, 2nd halfway, 3rd and ridden entering straight, kept on one pace under pressure run-in, 3rd of 9, 2 1/4l behind Bostons Angel (11-10) at Leopardstown 3m nov chs Grade 1 (4yo+) (1) in Dec.