Hercules handed Thurles mission
Cheltenham Festival winner Black Hercules is on a retrieval mission in the Ladbrokes Ireland Kinloch Brae Chase at Thurles on Thursday.
Black Hercules runs at Thurles
The eight-year-old only met with defeat once in his novice chase season, when he fell in a commanding position in the Ten Up Novice Chase at Navan.
But that did not stop him from winning at Cheltenham as he powered up the hill to beat Bristol De Mai in the JLT Novices' Chase.
This season has been a different story, though, as Black Hercules ran a lacklustre race in the John Durkan on his return and was predictably no match for his Willie Mullins-trained stablemate Douvan at Leopardstown over Christmas.
"He's been disappointing this year in his two runs, there's no getting away from it," said assistant trainer Patrick Mullins.
"For whatever reason, his John Durkan run was very poor. He'd been working well going into it and we thought he'd go close.
"His work was good after it so we ran him over two miles, which is a bit short for him so I suppose that wasn't too bad a run but certainly not up to the standards he set last year.
"This trip is ideal. He's still showing all his old sparkle at home, so we expect him to run well, but he does have a Grade One penalty to carry.
"We hope he can return to last year's form as we can find no reason for him not to.
"You can't say he's a spring horse as he was winning in the winter last year."
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Sizing John's connections are particularly glad Douvan is not running.
Now with Jessica Harrington, having left Henry de Bromhead, he has chased the superstar home on no fewer than seven occasions.
"Obviously it will be nice for him to not have to chase Douvan, for a change," said Harrington.
"Stepping up in trip is obviously the question mark.
"He ran over two and a half miles last season and didn't appear to get home over it but he's another year older now.
"Obviously we're hoping he gets the trip. If he does it will be interesting."
Smashing has been trained by Mullins and De Bromhead and is now with Mouse Morris.
He shaped well for a long way in the Lexus when appearing not to stay three miles.
"I thought he actually ran a very good race in the Lexus, he certainly ran better than his finishing position suggests," said Morris.
"It looked pretty clear that he needed to come back in trip so, if you want, he's running over his right trip.
"He likes a fair bit of dig in the ground so we're hoping he can go well."
De Bromhead runs Sub Lieutenant, who beat subsequent Lexus winner Outlander at Down Royal before finishing a fine third to Djakadam in the John Durkan.
"Sub Lieutenant has had a super season and his form looks even better now," said De Bromhead.
Boxing Along and Letter Of Credit complete the field.
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