Timeform preview Sunday's card at Thurles.
"A repeat of that sort of run would see him go close here."
The last two winners of Sunday's Grade 3 Kinloch Brae Chase (14:50) have gone on to win the Cheltenham Gold Cup in the same season (somewhat surprisingly given the race is over two and a half miles), but unfortunately there isn't anything of the calibre of Don Cossack or Sizing John in Sunday's race.
The top-rated chaser in this year's renewal is A Toi Phil, whose win in the PWC Champion Chase at Gowran Park in September reads well given the subsequent exploits of the second Balko des Flos, who finished second in the Christmas Chase at Leopardstown. A Toi Phil hasn't won since but did match that form when fourth in the John Durkan in December, and a repeat of that sort of run would see him go close here.
Arctic Skipper and Woodland Opera are both penalised for graded wins earlier in the season and the main danger to A Toi Phil may well come from the Willie Mullins-trained American Tom, who will be having just his fifth start for Ireland's champion trainer. American Tom had Woodland Opera as well as a host of other improvers behind him when winning a beginners' chase at Punchestown at the beginning of last season and was close to that level on his return in a Grade 3 at Naas in November. He's possibly not been the easiest to train given how little we've seen of him but he remains open to further improvement and is the biggest danger to A Toi Phil here.
Gigginstown and Gordon Elliott could also take the other graded race on the card on Sunday with Dinaria des Obeaux in the Grade 2 mares' novices' chase (15:20). Dinaria des Obeaux has been asked some big questions on her last couple of starts in the Drinmore and the Neville Hotels Novices' Chase (only a four-year-old at the time) and should find this race much easier, not only down in grade but also back against her own sex. She'd bolted up in a listed race prior to her Grade 1 exploits and should be hard to stop here if in the same sort of form.
The dangers come via Kate Appleby Shoes, who won on her chasing debut at Limerick in December but wasn't completely convincing at her obstacles, and perhaps more so from Magic of Light, who ran her best race yet when second in a handicap at Fairyhouse in early December.
Irish racing sometimes gets flak for being dominated by just a handful of big yards but the top-rated entrant in the interesting novices' hurdle earlier in the card (13:50) is one of a small number of horses trained by Terence O'Brien. Articulum was a dual winner in bumpers and added a third win under Rules to his tally when scoring at Cork on hurdling debut in November. The bare form of that race is hard to weigh up (extremely gruelling conditions) but he won with such ease that there's surely more to come. Other runners of interest include Dom Dolo, who made it two from three over hurdles when winning here December, and Discorama, who improved when finishing second at Limerick on Boxing Day.