Barry Connell’s Good Land is set for a Grade 1 return to Leopardstown following his taking maiden victory at the track last month.
The seven-year-old opened his account over obstacles by an easy eight lengths in late December, after unseating his rider at the first flight on his hurdling debut at Fairyhouse.
Good Land holds an entry for the Grade 1 Nathaniel Lacy & Partners Solicitors Novice Hurdle on February 4th, where a good performance could see him go on to tackle the Ballymore at the Cheltenham Festival in March.
Connell said: “He’s entered in the Nathaniel Lacey, the two-mile-six (furlong) Grade 1 at Leopardstown. That’s where he goes, he’s come out of his Christmas race very well from.
“That was his first real run over hurdles so we’re anticipating something from him. He’s a course winner so we’re hoping he can run a massive race.
“If he does that then he’ll go to Cheltenham, where he has an entry in the Ballymore.”
Good Land’s Leopardstown win saw him defeat Willie Mullins’ Embassy Gardens, form that was reinforced when the latter horse streaked home to take a Thurles novice hurdle by 35 lengths last weekend.
“Embassy Gardens won very well at Thurles. He made a mistake at Leopardstown and that probably cost him second – instead of finishing fourth he might have been second,” Connell said.
“It is nice to see a boost to the form, we’re happy with our horse and he goes back there having won recently over the course. He’s training well and we’re expecting a good run.”
Connell also has Cheltenham in mind for Royal Bond winner Marine Nationale, who was last seen landing the Grade 1 novice hurdle by a head from Irish Point.
He too has seen his stock rise thanks to the performances of former rivals, with Irish Point going on to finish second in the Lawlor’s Of Naas Novice Hurdle – beaten only by the fourth-placed horse in the Royal Bond, Champ Kiely.
Marine Nationale has enjoyed a short break since his Fairyhouse victory, but the six-year-old is back in action and will be aimed directly at the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle.
“He’s good, he’s back in full training. We gave him a break for about a month because he had been on the go for the whole summer,” said Connell.
“He didn’t get a summer break like most of the novices did, so he’s come back fresh and well. The plan is to go to the Supreme, he doesn’t have an entry in any of the other novice races.
“That’s where he’ll head, we’re happy with him and he’s back in full training. We’ll probably get a racecourse gallop into to him somewhere, probably a week before he goes and that would be his preparation sorted.”
Of the subsequent form boost, the trainer added: “The Grade 1 form worked out well in the Lawlor’s Of Naas – the horses who were second and fourth where first and second there.
“It’s always good to see the collateral form working out. We’re very happy with him and we think the better ground, which hopefully we will get a Cheltenham, will be in his favour.
“The ground had gone soft at Fairyhouse and that wouldn’t have suited him but nevertheless, he still managed to win. I’d say he’ll be even better on spring ground.”
Connell also owns and trains Enniskerry, victor in the Kilbegnet Novice Chase back in September before pulling up in the Grade 1 Drinmore.
The ground had become unsuitably testing on the latter occasion and the gelding will now wait for quicker conditions before he returns, with the Galway Plate the ultimate target come summer.
“Enniskerry’s last run was in the Drinmore, the ground had become heavy and that was totally unsuitable,” said Connell.
“He was pulled up and he’s on a break now. The plan is to train him for the Galway Plate in the summer.
“He’s already a winner around Galway, so we know he goes around the track. He won a beginners chase there at the Festival, he’ll come back in the late spring and that’ll be his main target.”