The enigmatic Yorkhill is one of three runners for Willie Mullins in the Guinness Kerry National at Listowel.
The champion trainer claimed back-to-back renewals of the prestigious three-mile handicap with Euro Leader and Bothar Na in 2005 and 2006, but has not managed to add to his tally since in a race that now carries a total prize fund of €200,000.
A dual winner at the Cheltenham Festival, Yorkhill looked a superstar in the making after winning the 2017 JLT Novices’ Chase, but has appeared a shadow of his former self over the past couple of years.
However, the nine-year-old claimed his first victory since that second Festival triumph when landing a conditions chase at the Galway Festival last month and bids to follow up under top-weight at Listowel on Wednesday in the hands of Paul Townend.
Mullins’ assistant David Casey said: “You’d prefer not to have top-weight, obviously, but he seems in good form.
“Going back left-handed is going to suit him better than racing right-handed in Galway, even though he won.
“We’ve been happy with him since, so fingers crossed he’ll run well.”
The Closutton handler also saddles Some Neck (David Mullins) – three lengths behind Yorkhill when runner-up at Galway – and the six-time winner Pravalaguna (Danny Mullins).
Casey added: “Some Neck ran well behind Yorkhill in Galway, and going an extra couple of furlongs should suit him. We’re also putting a pair of blinkers on him for the first time to try and eke out a bit more improvement.
“Pravalaguna ran well in the Galway Plate (finished seventh) before winning over hurdles in Cork. The trip should suit her well, and if she runs up to her Galway Plate form she should have a good chance of getting in the money. They all have chances, but it’s obviously a competitive race.”
The champion trainer’s great rival Gordon Elliott also has a strong hand, with A Toi Phil (Jack Kennedy), Barra (Hugh Morgan), Ravenhill (Denis O’Regan) and Swingbridge (Andrew Ring) all featuring in an 18-strong field.
Elliott, who claimed successive renewals of the Kerry National with Wrath Of Titans and Potters Point in 2016 and 2017, said: “It’s been a great race for us. There is great prize-money, and it’s an unbelievable race – it’s one of the big handicap chases that you want to win every year.
“It’s going to be a tough race. Ravenhill, who was fifth in the Galway Plate, must have a great chance if the ground is okay. Barra looked like she was going to win the Midlands National and fell at the last. With A Toi Phil, the trip would probably be a worry.”
The market is headed by the Enda Bolger-trained and JP McManus-owned Movewiththetimes.
Formerly trained in Britain by Paul Nicholls, the eight-year-old fell when joint-favourite for the Galway Plate on his first start for Bolger, but bounced back to win a beginners chase at Killarney last month – his first victory in almost three years.
Bolger said: “He has a nice racing weight and he’s going into the race in good form.
“It was important for him and important for us that he got his head in front at Killarney – hopefully it will boost his confidence.
“This is a €200,000 race, and everyone will be champing at the bit – but as long as they don’t get too much rain, hopefully he’ll run well and maybe get into the frame.”
The McManus silks are also carried by Joseph O’Brien’s All The Answers, the Tom Mullins-trained Oscar Knight and Drumcliff from Aidan Howard’s yard.
The last British-trained winner of the race was the late Ferdy Murphy’s Macs Supreme in 2000, and there are two raiders this year in David Pipe’s Dell’ Arca and Neil Mulholland’s Shantou Village – fourth and fifth respectively in last year’s renewal.
Other hopefuls include Henry de Bromhead’s pair of Poker Party and Valseur Lido, James Motherway’s Na Trachtalai Abu and the Eric McNamara-trained duo of Internal Transfer and Black Scorpion – although the latter is not yet guaranteed a run, as first reserve.