JP McManus always targets this race in a serious way, providing eight of last year's field and winning with his first string, School Boy Hours, while the year before, runner-up Minella Times was the best of his five representatives.
In 2019, he narrowly missed the prize with Fitzhenry, who was backed-in to favourite, beaten half a length. and he dominated the 2018 renewal with four of his runners finishing in the first six, including the winner, Auvergnat. McManus also had the winner, Anibale Fly, and the third in 2017.
The top owner's best chance of landing this big prize again appears to lie with Donkey Years, who is to be ridden by his main jockey, Mark Walsh, who has ridden this eight-year-old on all six of his assignments so far this year, winning or placing in five of them.
15:00 (Leopardstown) Donkey Years
Donkey Years has run over this trip on three occasions this year, returning figures of 213, the first of which saw him beaten by less than a length at Fairyhouse, when he and winner Defi Blue were well clear of the rest.
Following that narrow defeat, Donkey Years went one better to win a Grade B handicap at Punchestown at the end of April, beating 13 rivals in a new headgear combination of cheekpieces and a tongue-tie, which he retains today.
He didn't run over three miles again until finishing third in October's Munster National at Limerick, where the ground was probably softer than he would have liked (his two earlier three-mile runs were on a yielding surface like today's).
From an unchanged mark and back at this venue with a more favourable surface, Donkey Years is a very serious player and, being his trainer's best horse, he will be produced in top shape, fresh from a short break, having no doubt been aimed at this for some time.
- Next best: Ain't That A Shame
Of the others, Henry De Bromhead's Ain't That A Shame finished a place in front of Donkey Years in the Munster National, beaten by just a head at the line by The Big Dog, who is one of the favourites for today's Welsh Grand National at Chepstow.
Ain't That A Shame would probably have won that race but for a mistake at the last fence and while he has finished second in three of his five chases (and third in another), it seems only a matter of time until he puts that right.
His only win over hurdles came on a deep surface and his near-miss last time was on soft ground, so he would probably have preferred more rain, but he is still a lively contender under his winning rider Rachael Blackmore.