Noel Meade reports the unbeaten Monksland to be firmly on course for the Neptune Investment Management Novices’ Hurdle at Cheltenham in a fortnight’s time.
Since winning by 11 lengths on his bumper debut at Down Royal in early November, the five-year-old made a winning start to his career over hurdles at Navan before running away with the Slaney Novice Hurdle at Naas.
He is likely to encounter quicker conditions at the Festival than he has done so far this season, but his trainer does not expect that to be an issue.
“So far everything is OK with him and the Neptune is the plan,” said Meade.
“I don’t think the ground in Cheltenham will be a factor for him. I wouldn’t want to run him on fast ground, but I don’t think that will happen anyway.
“He’s a horse with plenty of speed and he’s working well at the moment, so fingers crossed that continues.
“Fingal Bay is out, but it will still be a good race and Willie (Mullins) has a few to choose from.”
Monksland could line up against his stablemate Sword Of Destiny in the Neptune if conditions are right, while recent Punchestown winner Ipsos Du Berlais will step up to three miles for the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle.
“Sword Of Destiny is a possible for the Neptune as well, but the ground is more important to him and if they don’t get rain he won’t go,” Meade added.
“Ipsos Du Berlais will run in the Albert Bartlett. He’s a horse who stays well and keeps galloping, which is what you need for that race.”