First Lieutenant in red-hot hunter

Only five go to post for the Arctic Tack Stud Hunters Chase at Thurles on Thursday – but whether there has been a classier race in the division is debatable.

First Lieutenant

Their career prize-money combined is well over £1million and three of them were regulars at the Cheltenham Festival in their prime.

First Lieutenant won the Neptune Novices' Hurdle way back in 2011 and was second in the RSA Chase to Bobs Worth and in the Ryanair to Cue Card.

On His Own was a whisker away from winning the most coveted prize in steeplechasing, the Gold Cup, when he lost in controversial circumstances to Lord Windermere in 2014, while Salsify twice won the Foxhunter at Cheltenham, as well as several other major races.

But they may all have to go some to beat Foxrock, who has gone hunter chasing at a young age and was fourth in the Irish Gold Cup less than a year ago.

"It's unreal to be meeting horses like this in a hunter chase, it's like a mini Kinloch Brae," said Mouse Morris, trainer of First Lieutenant.

"He's in good form, he had a run in a point to point the other day and he ran well, he was only just touched off.

"We'll just see what happens, he's 12 now and he's not what he was, obviously. Whether we are able to think about the spring, we'll know more after this."

Patrick Mullins rides On His Own, who is owned by a group of his friends.

"It's a very competitive race," he said. "Ours won a point-to-point 10 days ago so we know he's on good terms with himself and he seems in good form still.

"We've got to be realistic, though, he's 13 now and he's owned by a group of my friends and it's all about giving them some great sport.

"It will be difficult for him to beat Foxrock, who's only nine and should be coming into his prime as a staying chaser."

The W.T. O'Grady Memorial European Breeders Fund Novice Hurdle sees Willie Mullins' Battleford aim to press his claims for the Cheltenham Festival.

Beaten narrowly by Ballyandy in the Champion Bumper last March, he was turned over at odds-on on his hurdling debut at Navan but improved for the step up to two and a half miles to win at Leopardstown and goes over another two furlongs this time.

"It looks like the further he goes the better he'll be," said Mullins junior. "He looks a real stayer in the making, he's a tough, hardy horse.

"We're hoping he'll keep on improving the further he goes and we think he'll relish this trip.

"After this we'll hopefully have an idea which race he'll be running in at Cheltenham."

Stablemate Some Neck, Jim Culloty's Electric Concorde and Noel Meade's Brightest Flame should give him something to think about.

Read More at Sporting Life

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