Cheltenham Festival hero Vanillier bids to bounce back from Christmas disappointment in the Naas Racecourse Business Club Novice Chase on Sunday.
Last season’s Albert Bartlett winner was beaten on his debut over fences at Down Royal in October, but raised his game to claim Grade Two honours at Punchestown the following month.
Vanillier was well fancied when stepped up to Grade One level for the Neville Hotels Novice Chase at Leopardstown, but finished behind Gordon Elliott’s pair of Fury Road and Run Wild Fred.
Trainer Gavin Cromwell is adamant his charge did not run up to form on that occasion and is hoping for an improved performance this weekend.
He said: “For whatever reason, Vanillier he just didn’t spark at Leopardstown at Christmas but he worked earlier in the week and we were happy with him.
“It was just one of those days at Leopardstown and it wasn’t his true running. He seems well in himself so he deserves to take his chance and hopefully he will give a good account of himself.”
Vanillier will renew rivalry with Run Wild Fred, who is joined by stablemate Farouk D’alene.
Willie Mullins also possesses a strong hand, with three last-time-out winners declared in En Beton, Stattler and Stratum.
The other Grade Three on the card is the BetVictor Limestone Lad Hurdle, in which Elliott saddles a potential Champion Hurdle contender in Saint Felicien.
The French recruit made an impressive Irish debut at Gowran Park in November and puts his unbeaten record on the line on Sunday.
He is joined by two stable companions in Felix Desjy and Petit Mouchoir, with Joseph O’Brien’s Darasso, the Mullins-trained Whiskey Sour and Wolf Prince from Cromwell’s yard completing the field.
Cromwell, who claimed this prize with subsequent Champion Hurdle hero Espoir D’Allen in 2019, said: “Wolf Prince is probably badly handicapped and it suits to run in those conditions races to try pick up a few quid, but he’s pretty well exposed.
“The Limestone Lad Hurdle is a nice race and it was an important day when Espoir D’Allen won it. It’s not a big field, so while Wolf Prince has a bit to find on ratings, he might pick up a bit of prize money.”