Only four runners but a classy renewal in prospect. Willie Mullins, who has won the last two, held an exceptionally strong hand at the early stage and relies on the exciting hurdling recruit BRIAR HILL. The Cheltenham Festival Bumper winner didn't have much to beat on his hurdling debut at Wexford but jumped well and quickened nicely and can go all the way to the top of the novice division. Apache Stronghold has progressed with every run and had little difficulty holding off Azorian in a Grade 2 over the course and distance three weeks ago. They race from the same weights and the winner should confirm the form. Winning point-to-pointer Very Wood didn't look at ease when stepped into Grade 1 company at Fairyhouse but should be suited by stepping up in trip and his allowance will help.
Apache Stronghold (IRE) 9-2 (11-3) Tracked leaders, improved into close 2nd travelling well after 3 out, led from 2 out, mistake at last and pushed along briefly early run-in, stayed on well inside final furlong, not extended, won at Navan 2m 4f nov hdl G2 (1) in Nov beating Azorian (11-3) by 3l, 8 ran.
Azorian (IRE) 2-1fav (11-3) Led, not fluent 3rd and 4th, ridden and strongly pressed 3 out, headed next, no impression on winner inside final furlong, kept on, 2nd of 8, 3l behind Apache Stronghold (11-3) at Navan 2m 4f nov hdl G2 (1) in Nov.
Briar Hill (IRE) 1-9fav (11-12) Made all, went clear from 3 out, pushed along before last, stayed on well run-in, easily, won at Wexford 2m 2f mdn hdl sft in Nov beating Molly Connors (10-11) by 11l, 11 ran.
Very Wood (FR) 11-2 (11-7) Settled in mid-division, ridden in 6th approaching 2 out and no impression in 5th before last, kept on one pace, 5th of 10, 7l behind The Tullow Tank (11-10) at Fairyhouse 2m nov hdl Grade 1 (1).