Hurdles the question for Heartbreak
The view from connections ahead of the big Coral.ie Hurdle at Leopardstown, for which Ebor hero Heartbreak City heads the betting.
Jockey Adam McNamara celebrates as he rides Heartbreak City to victory in the 2016 Betfred Ebor.
Tony Martin is taking nothing for granted ahead of Melbourne Cup runner-up Heartbreak City's return to the jumping game in Sunday's Coral.ie Hurdle at Leopardstown.
The seven-year-old has not been seen over hurdles since scoring at last summer's Galway Festival and it is his Flat form that makes him stand out from the crowd.
Following an impressive display in the Ebor at York last August, Heartbreak City was sent across the globe for a tilt at the Flemington showpiece and ran a brilliant race to come within a head of claiming an historic victory for his ebullient owners.
He makes his first appearance since in this weekend's lucrative handicap hurdle back on home soil and appears dangerously well handicapped on a mark of 125, but Martin knows it is rarely that simple.
"He had a few weeks off after he came back from Melbourne and seems in good form," said the Summerhill-based trainer.
"He's galloped well and worked well. He's schooled around the Curragh and had a nice gallop around Punchestown the other day, so we're happy.
"On his Flat form you'd have to give him a serious chance, but it's a different game altogether when you put eight flights of hurdles in front of them.
"Fingers crossed he'll run a good race and come back safe."
Heartbreak City is the star name in a 23-strong field and just one of four runners for his trainer.
Martin also saddles Golden Spear, who finished fourth in a similar race at Ascot last month, as well as Gladiator King and Tudor City.
He said: "Golden Spear ran well in Ascot and we've been happy with him since.
"They all have different owners, so we'll let them have a go and hopefully they all have little chances."
Willie Mullins last won this €100,000 contest with Abbey Lane in 2013 and also launches a four-strong raid.
His son and assistant, Patrick Mullins, said: "Allblak Des Places was disappointing in Limerick, but his work has improved since Christmas and Ruby (Walsh) has gone for him.
"Thomas Hobson hasn't run for a good while, so I'd imagine it will be tough for him on his first run back
"Cap D'Aubois has been a little disappointing as well and then there's Noble Inn coming back in trip.
"I always think you need to be nearer the bottom of the weights than the top in a competitive race like this."
The champion trainer's brother, Tom Mullins, is another mob-handed.
That's A Wrap bids for a fourth successive win having completed his hat-trick with a last-gasp victory over this course and distance at the Christmas Festival.
Mullins said: "Things didn't work out for Ruby the last day but he still managed to win so maybe he has a few pounds up his sleeve.
"He's a very good horse but he's creeping up the handicap. He has a nice weight (10st 5lb) but he is definitely a chaser.
"He'll be over fences next year so whether that will allow him to win a top handicap hurdle or not, I don't know.
"I love the horse anyway and he's a nice horse to have."
Mullins is also represented by Sir Scorpion, Grand Partner and bottom-weight Top Othe Ra.
He added: "Sir Scorpion was brought down at the last in Fairyhouse the last day, but he was fine afterwards and never missed a beat.
"He's in good order and may even improve a bit. He's at that end of the handicap where he'd have a chance.
"Grand Partner went lame after he won at Leopardstown last summer, a few vets looked at him and we couldn't find out exactly what the problem was.
"All we did was rest him and we've been getting him ready since. We decided to wait for this race as he's at the right end of the handicap.
"I feel there is a good handicap in Top Othe Ra as well."
Heading the weights is Shark Hanlon's stable stalwart Hidden Cyclone, who makes his first appearance since finishing third in the Fighting Fifth at Newcastle in November.
Other contenders include Shay Barry's After Rain, the Gordon Elliott-trained Veinard and De Name Escapes Me from Noel Meade's stable.
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