Gordon Elliott is preparing one of his biggest teams for the Galway Festival next week, as he chases his maiden victory in the Guinness Galway Hurdle.
Grade Two winning jumper Chosen Mate looks to be Elliott's leading chance in the €300,000 highlight next Thursday, for the trainer who recorded a third Grand National success earlier this year with the dual winner Tiger Roll.
Elliott will be wary of his returning spring superstars heading back from their summer holidays, but not before he launches a battalion of runners on Galway's seven-day festival, which commences on Monday.
Seeking his first victory in the most valuable hurdle race in Ireland, Chosen Mate returned to the fold with a creditable run on the flat at Leopardstown last week, and Elliott is eyeing a strong season for the six-year-old.
(Credit: Racing Post) He said: “Chosen Mate has a good chance in the Galway Hurdle. He had a nice run at Leopardstown on his return and that will have left him spot on for this.
“He's a classy horse and we've had our eye on this race for a while.
“He has the option of going chasing, and he can always do that later in the season, but we thought this was worth looking at.”
Tombstone - once fourth to Altior in the Supreme Novices Hurdle at Cheltenham, along with Star Maker are two other players in the race for the 41-year-old.
Elliott continued: “Tombstone can either run very well or very bad but he's been a good horse down the years and he'll also go for it.
"If he came back to the form he showed in some of the Graded races last year he'd have a chance but he's becoming a bit hard to predict.”
On Star Maker, the trainer added: “He might struggle to get in but, if he does, I could see him running well.”
Meanwhile, Grade One winning hurdler Mengli Khan looks to be Elliott's most talented representative in the coveted €250,000 Galway Plate - a contest the County Meath trainer has won for two of the past three years.
Scoring with Lord Scoundrel in 2016 and Clarcam twelve months ago, Mengli Khan was last seen finishing down the field in the Ascot Stakes at Royal Ascot, but is currently vying for favouritism around the 10/1 mark for a first career win since landing a Beginners Chase last November.
Elliott said: “We've got a good few options for the Plate and we'll probably run as many as we can.
"Not many people would have predicted Clarcam winning the Plate last summer, so if you're not in you can't win.
“Mengli Khan will definitely run and he's in good form. Barra will run as well.
"She's been raised four pounds for falling at the last in the Midlands National at Kilbeggan last Friday, but looked like she'd have got more if she'd stayed on her feet.
"She could have a decent chance as well.”