It is nine months since The Tullow Tank last made a racecourse appearance and there will be plenty of interest when he returns to action for his first start over fences at Fairyhouse this afternoon.
The horse named after rugby international Sean O’Brien was a dual-Grade One winner over hurdles last season and a prime Cheltenham festival candidate until his campaign came prematurely to a halt on the back of the steroids controversy surrounding his former trainer Philip Fenton.
Owner Barry Connell quickly ruled out a trip to Cheltenham and subsequently moved The Tullow Tank to Dessie Hughes who is now in charge of a horse always talked about as a potential steeplechase star.
“He’s been ready to run for a couple of weeks. They’re calling it good to yielding at Fairyhouse and hopefully he’ll take beating. We’ve had no hiccups with him and he’s a proper Grade One horse,” Connell said.
n “The plan is, if all goes well, he’ll go back in three weeks for the Drinmore. There’s no reason why he shouldn’t go and jump a fence. Adrian (Heskin) has schooled him and everything’s gone well,” he added.
The Tullow Tank is already a 16-1 shot for this season’s RSA Chase but faces no gentle introduction to his new discipline today up against the Grade Two winning hurdler Mala Beach.
Gordon Elliott has been eagerly awaiting the chance to launch this horse over fences too but has also had to wait for ground conditions to ease.
It should be an intriguing Beginners Chase clash between the two of them but there may be betting value in siding with Mala Beach who has a proven understanding with jockey Robbie Colgan.
Today’s other Beginners Chase is over two miles which makes Aidan O’Brien’s King Leon, a hurdles winner over three miles last time, an interesting runner.
The most interesting of all though could be The Bosses Cousin who has fallen in his two chase starts to date but is regarded as a sound jumper by Willie Mullins who significantly continues to persevere with the lightly-raced nine year old.
Another ex-Philip Fenton trained star is Value At Risk who has been moved to the English trainer Harry Skelton by owner Marc Huglin. A two-time bumper winner last season, Value At Risk also finished third at the Punchestown festival and will now be sent hurdling by Skelton.
“He is very high calibre. We will be going novice hurdling and he has come in fit. We’d like to get him out pretty soon so that if we want to go for a good novice hurdle later in the winter we can,” he reported.
“The guy who owns and bred him is a bit nervous that the quicker spring ground is not really his cup of tea. . . ”