Noel Meade would not swap Monksland for any other horse in what looks set to be a wide-open renewal of the Ladbrokes World Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival.
With four-time winner Big Buck's sidelined by injury, the stage is set for a new staying star to step up to the plate in March, but at this stage it is difficult to know how many of the leading contenders will even run in the race, let alone which one will win it.
Reve De Sivola and Oscar Whisky dispute favouritism after finishing first and second respectively in Saturday's Cleeve Hurdle at Cheltenham and Monksland would appear third in line, with leading mare Quevega unlikely to line up and doubts over the participation of Tidal Bay.
Meade's six-year-old certainly looked the part when winning on his first attempt at three miles at Leopardstown over Christmas, and the trainer is looking forward to seeing him line up at Prestbury Park.
"He's good at the moment and he's going straight to Cheltenham," said the handler.
"There are plenty of people hoping their horses will be good enough and plenty of contenders and we're one of them.
"The two horses in England the other day both ran very good races I thought and we'll just have to see where we fit in.
"We think there is a bit more improvement to come from our horse and if anything, he might be a shade better horse on better ground. I wouldn't swap him."
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