HOLYMACAPONY puts his unbeaten record and tall reputation on the line in the BetVictor Make Your Best Bet Novice Hurdle at Navan on Friday.
The winning point-to-pointer could hardly have been more impressive on his hurdling debut for Henry de Bromhead and Rachael Blackmore at Punchestown last month.
The four-year-old, who carries the Monalee and Minella Indo colours of owner Barry Maloney, faces his elders for the first time at Grade 2 level.
De Bromhead said: “He’s in great form. He won his maiden hurdle nicely at Punchestown, so this seemed like the right step forward for him.
“We’ll see where we are after Friday.”
Champion trainer Willie Mullins has won a race formerly known as the Navan Novice Hurdle on a record seven occasions – and this year relies upon the brilliant Envoi Allen’s half-brother Fighter Allen, who also won at Punchestown last month.
Gordon Elliott has a couple of contenders in Fakiera and Eskylane – while Gavin Cromwell’s Gabynako, Jessica Harrington’s Ashdale Bob and the Noel Meade-trained Lieutenant Command complete the field.
The most valuable race on the card is the €40,000 BetVictor Gamble Responsibly Tara Handicap Hurdle, in which King Alex bids to make it four from four this season for owner-trainer Barry Connell.
Connell said: “He’s in good form and has already won around Navan this season. I think he’ll handle the track and the ground, and hopefully he’s the one to beat in the race.
“He has a nice racing weight of 11 stone, so we’ll hope for the best.”
Thereisnodoubt (Shane Crawley), Lord Erskine (Harry Rogers) and It Could Be You (Tom Mullins) are among King Alex’s rivals.
It could be argued that the most intriguing contest of the afternoon is the concluding BetVictor Flash Cashback “Future Champions” Flat Race, which stages a fascinating clash between the hugely exciting pair Letsbeclearaboutit and Sir Gerhard.
Cromwell’s Letsbeclearaboutit has looked every inch a top-class prospect in winning each of his two starts under champion amateur Patrick Mullins, who is again on board.
Elliott’s £400,000 purchase Sir Gerhard is already a best-priced 4/1 favourite for the Champion Bumper at Cheltenham following a 14-length romp on his rules debut at Down Royal under Jamie Codd, who has previously claimed this Listed prize aboard Samcro and Envoi Allen.
Codd said: “Letsbeclearaboutit and Sir Gerhard look like the two leading bumper horses in Ireland this year, so it will be interesting.
“I’m really looking forward to taking him (Letsbeclearaboutit) on. Sir Gerhard is in great form, and I wouldn’t be swapping him at this stage anyway – he’s a lovely horse.
“We’ll know a bit more on Friday.”