Noel Meade reports Road To Riches in tip top shape ahead of a bid to recapture his crown in the TheTote.com Galway Plate at Ballybrit tomorrow.
The Gigginstown gelding has struck twice at Grade One level since his victory in the E220,000 contest in 2014 and now has to give weight away to all his rivals in the ultra-competitive handicap.
The nine-year-old was last seen in action when falling in the Punchestown Gold Cup in April and connections earmarked a repeat bid in this race earlier in the summer.
"He's in good form and we couldn't be happier with him. Everything has gone well with him. He has schooled well and is in good shape," said Meade.
"The main worry now is that it doesn't rain too much. We've felt all along that good ground is what he wants."
Last year's winner Shanahan's Turn is one of four runners for trainer Henry de Bromhead and the Waterford handler is hoping that the eight-year-old can recapture the form which saw him run out a cosy winner 12 months ago.
The gelding, who is owned by Ann and Alan Potts, finished well beaten on his return to action at Down Royal last month in a trial for tomorrow's race.
"He seems to be in good form and seems to be coming back to himself. We're happy with him," said de Bromhead.
"You'd be happy enough with his weight the way he won in the end last year, but obviously he's got that rise to contend with."
The form horse of de Bromhead's quartet would appear to be The King Of Brega, an impressive winner at Limerick earlier this month.
The trainer said: "He was super last time with the cheekpieces and Dylan Robinson gave him a great ride. Unfortunately he was hurt yesterday.
"Obviously we have Andrew (Lynch) instead, which is great, and he has won on him before.
"He's a horse in good form and he has a lovely weight."
Home Farm made little impression when last seen in the Grand National at Aintree, but de Bromhead hopes better ground now will bring about improvement.
"He's in good form and we're hoping the chance of better ground will suit him. He seems off a fair mark," he said.
Sizing Platinum also disappointed on his most recent outing when finishing a tailed-off fourth of four finishers at Punchestown early last month.
De Bromhead added: "He has won over the course. There is a bit of a question mark about the trip, but he's in good form and it's worth taking our chance.
"Barry (Geraghty) thought the ground was way too quick for him the last time in Punchestown and easy side of good will suit him."
Willie Mullins will be represented by three runners in the two-mile-six-furlong showpiece and Ruby Walsh will get the leg up on former Grade One winner Ballycasey.
He has proven somewhat disappointing in recent times and will be seeking his first success since November 2014.
Stablemate Alelchi Inois made a winning return to action at Punchestown early last month and was earmarked for this race immediately afterwards.
The progressive Devils Bride completes the trio for the champion trainer. He also made his return from a significant break when chasing home the in-form Mr Fiftyone at Punchestown last month.
Patrick Mullins, assistant to his father, said: "They will all love the ground and with Road To Riches set to to run, they've all got lower weights than we were expecting. They do have to beat a proper Cheltenham horse though, so there are positives and negatives.
"Alechi Inois has won at the course before which is always a big help around Galway and he has a near 50 per cent strike rate for us.
"Good ground is key to him. He ran in the Plate last year where nothing went right for him.
"Ruby was happy with his run last year as it was better than his finishing position suggested.
"Devils Bride keeps surprising us as he keeps improving and I think he has been given a nice racing weight, while Ballycasey has been frustrating.
"No doubt he is going to pop up in one of these big races one day. He is in good form, it is just whether he fancies doing it.
"If he ran up to the level of form of his Cheltenham Festival run, he would go close."
Emma Lavelle is hoping for a big show from English raider Junction Fourteen, who makes his first start since winning a novices' handicap chase at Sandown in April.
She said: "It's obviously a massively competitive race, but I think he's got a decent profile for it.
"Touch wood, he's a good jumper and he loves to travel handily in his races.
"Hopefully the ground isn't too soft. He doesn't want it like a road, but he's not over-big and he wouldn't want it very soft.
"He's got a nice racing weight and hopefully he'll run well."