Straight to Cheltenham for Monksland
Monksland wins at Leopardstown at Christmas
(Healy Racing Photos)
Noel Meade's progressive six-year-old relished the step up to three miles when landing the Grade Two Christmas Hurdle at Leopardstown, comfortably reversing form with Zaidpour who'd beaten him in the Hatton's Grace Hurdle on their previous start over two-and-a-half miles.
Meade said: "The plan is not to run him before Cheltenham and we are hoping there could be a bit more improvement to come from him. We have been purposely easy on him, as he is a very clear-winded horse and doesn't take a lot of work to get fit. We are hoping by keeping him fresh that we will be able to prolong his longevity.
"All is well with him at the moment. I'm just giving him an easy time - a bit of break - and then we will start building him up for Cheltenham."
With four-time winner Big Buck's on the sidelines, Monksland is now 6/1 with Sky Bet for the Ladbrokes World Hurdle and Meade feels his speed could be a key weapon at Cheltenham.
"We were hopeful he would get the three miles at Leopardstown last time because he was staying on well in the Hatton's Grace Hurdle but maybe the way the race was run suited us," he said.
"The leader went off at a hell of a gallop and perhaps the favourite followed him sooner than he should have, but Paul (Carberry) was very good on Monksland.
"With Big Buck's out of it, the World Hurdle has opened up. Monskland obviously stays well but he isn't a slow horse and has the speed to win over two miles."
A mouthwatering clash between last season's first and second from Cheltenham's Champion Bumper could be on the cards in the Deloitte Novice Hurdle at Leopardstown on February 9.