Noel Meade’s Realt Dubh enjoyed a tremendous time of things last season winning four times, including three at Group 1 level, but his handler still remains undecided as to what is his optimum trip and in which direction he will choose to campaign his high-class performer this term, writes Elliot Slater.

Meade confesses to having always had a nagging feeling that Realt Dubh might be best at three-miles, so it came as the most pleasant of surprises when last season he saw his charge show tremendous pace over the minimum trip when winning twice in Grade 1 company at Leopardstown, before going on to run a brave third behind Captain Chris in the Arkle Chase at the Cheltenham Festival last March. Even those with a Grand National free bets offer will have been impressed.

The seven-year-old had earlier disappointed his trainer when finishing a well beaten second at Fairyhouse over two-and-a-half-miles and was consequently dropped back to the minimum trip for most of the rest of the season. But returning to Fairyhouse in April over that same distance, Realt Dubh was upsides old foe Noble Prince at the second last when that rival took a tumble, leaving Meade’s star to come home 11-lengths clear of Loosen My Load in the Grade 1 Powers Gold Cup Chase. Anyone looking for Grand National tips should look elsewhere though.

The way he finished his race off suggested to Meade that there was more left in the locker, and looking ahead to this term he remains in two minds whether or not to step up to three miles, or stick with two and two-and-a-half mile events this season. Wherever he goes and over whatever distance, there is no doubt that Realt Dubh is a talented performer who is versatile as to his trip and can handle any underfoot conditions from good to heavy going.

He remains a horse with considerable potential and one to follow for the coming campaign.

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