Arvika bids to enhance Arkle claims
(Healy Racing Photos)
Despite being sidelined for over two years with injury, the seven-year-old has made an explosive start to his career over fences, winning at Punchestown in May before making all in the Drinmore Novice Chase at Fairyhouse earlier this month.
A bold display of front-running and jumping led to him beating the talented Dedigout pointless and trainer Willie Mullins does not believe coming back from two and a half miles to two miles and a furlong will be a problem.
He said: "He's been fine since Fairyhouse and I think coming back to an extended two miles round Leopardstown should be fine for him.
"The ground won't be a problem and we'll see what happens. He's a good, strong horse who likes to gallop and jump, but we'll let Paul (Townend) decide how he wants to ride him."
Seemingly the biggest threat to Arvika Ligeonniere's unbeaten record over fences is the Jessica Harrington-trained Oscars Well.
A dual Grade One-winning hurdler and sixth in last season's Champion Hurdle, he bolted up on his fencing bow at Punchestown in October but then suffered a horrendous fall at the same track the following month.
However, he showed he had suffered no ill effects when scoring easily at Navan a few weeks ago and Harrington could not be happier with her star turn ahead of his return to the highest level.
"Everything is grand with him. He had that horrible fall in Punchestown but I thought he was brilliant in Navan, I couldn't complain about that performance at all," said the trainer.
"It's a good race but if you want to be up there you have to go and take them on.
"He won't mind the ground, it should be better than what he ran on in Navan and he coped with that all right.
"It's an unbelievable two-mile novice division this year and we'll find out more about where we stand after Christmas."
Dedigout's trainer Tony Martin this time takes on Arvika Ligeonniere with Benefficient, last seen filling the runner-up spot over three miles at Newbury.
Mouse Morris saddles the admirable Baily Green, who won seven successive races before being narrowly beaten by Twinlight at Punchestown in mid-November.
The five-runner field is completed by Dylan Ross, who was well behind Oscars Well at Navan on his latest appearance.
Our Conor puts his unbeaten record over hurdles on the line at Leopardstown on St Stephen's Day.