JOSEPH O’Brien enjoyed a terrific week with his select National Hunt string at the Punchestown Festival and will bid to maintain that excellent jumping run today, with his Cheltenham Festival winner Lark In The Mornin returning to the fray.

The impressive Boodles Juvenile Handicap Hurdle scorer is set to go off favourite for the Pertemps Network Swinton Handicap Hurdle (3.15) at Haydock, a premier handicap worth £80,000.

A four-year-old with a preference for decent ground, the Sean and Bernardine Mulryan-owned performer has missed several targets this year due to unsuitably soft going, including at the Punchestown Festival last week when withdrawn from a two-mile novice hurdle.

Instead, the impressive Cheltenham winner will become only O’Brien’s third career runner at Haydock, racing off 8lb higher than when readily landing the Boodles. There is also possible Irish representation in the race through Tony Martin’s Niburu, though there has been no Irish-trained winner of the race in 20 years – not since Macs Joy in 2004.

Speaking to The Irish Field, O’Brien said: “It looks like it should be a nice race for him. I’m sure it will be competitive but there’s some good prize money on offer.

“Hopefully it looks like they should have some nice ground over there this weekend too. He seems to have come out of his run at Cheltenham in good shape. Fingers crossed this is a nice race for him.”

Before his participation in the race was confirmed on Wednesday, Lark In The Mornin was a top-priced 4/1 favourite for the Swinton. After declarations, he was only 5/2.

From the home team, the Paul Nicholls-trained Afadil must have solid claims after his fourth in the Scottish Champion Hurdle, though Harry Cobden rides the same stable’s Rare Middleton.

Aintree Festival runner-up Ballee needs respecting for the Philip Hobbs and Johnson White training partnership. The latest going update from Haydock on Friday morning found the ground to be good, good to soft in places on the hurdles course after watering - good news for supporters of the favourite.

The form of Lark In The Mornin’s Boodles success was also boosted at the Punchestown festival, with Harsh (fourth), Pigeon House (ninth) and Eagle Fang (12th) all winning there on their first start since the competitive Cheltenham handicap hurdle.

As for one of the big guns in his flat string, O’Brien is thinking internationally with Al Riffa after his fourth in the Group 1 Prix Ganay last month when beaten only three quarters of a length.

He could be seen next at the 2024 Belmont Stakes Racing Festival, which is being held at Saratoga from June 6th to 9th due to ongoing construction at Belmont Park.

The prize fund for the Grade 1 Manhattan Stakes, a turf race over an extended mile and a furlong, has been boosted from $750,000 to $1m as it switches to Saratoga.

O’Brien said: “I thought Al Riffa ran a great race in France. Obviously it was his first start back after a long layoff [of 257 days]. We’ll see how the next couple of weeks go with him, but we’re looking at the Manhattan with him at the moment.”

Al Riffa, winner of the 2022 National Stakes, finished closer to Ace Impact than any other horse in the Arc winner’s career when runner-up in the Group 2 Prix Guillaume d’Ornano at Deauville on his previous start in August 2023.