Rachael Blackmore is confident Monalee can make his presence felt in the Ladbrokes King George VI Chase at Kempton.
The leading rider will cross the Irish Sea to compete in the Boxing Day showpiece for the first time aboard Henry de Bromhead’s charge, who is a general 8-1 shot to become the first Irish-trained winner since Kicking King in 2005.
Beaten less than two lengths into fourth place in last season’s Cheltenham Gold Cup, Monalee was third behind multiple Grade One winners Presenting Percy and Kemboy on his reappearance in a Listed event at Thurles last month.
And Blackmore expects him to strip much fitter on Saturday.
“It’s very exciting. Everyone is very happy with Monalee at home and I’m really looking forward to it,” she said.
“The King George is a race that rolls off the tongue. It’s great to be heading over and it would be even better if we could go and win.
“If you look at back at his run behind Delta Work in Leopardstown (when second in last year’s Savills Chase) and his run in the Gold Cup, both of those put him bang there.
“He always seems to take his first run, which we’re hoping he did in Thurles.”
Two days after the King George, Blackmore is set to don the same colours of owner Barry Maloney aboard Minella Indo, who is the hot favourite for the Savills Chase at Leopardstown.
The seven-year-old faces a rise in class against the likes of Presenting Percy, Kemboy and Delta Work, but has been hugely impressive in winning his two starts so far this term.
Blackmore added: “We couldn’t have asked him to do any more in Wexford or Navan.
“This is another step up, but we’re really looking forward to him.”
There could, however, be a potential stumbling block to Monalee and other Irish runners appearing at Kempton after the Irish Government announced on Sunday evening it would impose a 48-hour ban on travel from Britain to Ireland.
The country’s Transport Minister Eamon Ryan said that ferries will continue to operate for freight.
He said: “We need haulage coming in to keep our shelves full but other passengers will be restricted.
“I talked to the UK minister this morning and have been talking throughout the day with the Taoiseach (Micheal Martin) and the Tanaiste (Leo Varadkar), the health minister, foreign affairs minister and others involved.
“We have to do this because the UK Government themselves has put in place very strict restrictions on movements.
“This new strain of coronavirus, which they have identified, seems to have a much higher transmission rate.
“On a precautionary basis it’s right for us to follow up on the Dutch, Belgium, Italian and other governments will do the same.
“Any passengers who are in transit will have to set up mechanism to repatriate them in a safe way, but general travel between here and Britain is going to be restricted and we are going to review that at Cabinet to see if there will be any further changes.”