Many of the stars in jumps racing tend to come from powerhouse yards. But in Fastorslow, trainer Martin Brassil has a live Gold Cup contender eager to show the small yards can still compete at the top.
Fastorslow has twice raced at the Cheltenham Festival already and has been beaten a short-head and a neck in 2022 and 2023.
His shrewd trainer is hoping that 2024 will be a case of 'third time lucky' with eyes very much set on the biggest prize of all, the Cheltenham Gold Cup on Friday 15th March.
He may not be able to compete numerically with compatriots like Willie Mullins or Gordon Elliott, but when Martin Brassil gets a good horse in his care, he is more than capable of maximising potential.
He has both the Aintree National and the Irish version on his CV, famously scoring with Numbersixvalverde on Merseyside back in 2006 as Niall 'Slippers' Madden steered him home.
When Fastorslow announced himself as a Grade 1 star at Punchestown last April by defeating Gold Cup one-two Galopin Des Champs and Bravemansgame, Madden offered a glimpse into the way in which the Kildare-based trainer operates.
"He's a masterful trainer," said Madden. "He gets targets into his head and he produces them so impressively on the day. He used to drive me mad early on when I was with him.
"I'd be like, 'Run them, run them, run them', but when he did eventually run them, they were never far away. He's so good at producing these horses on the big days."
That modus operandi has been clear again with Fastorslow this season.
After his shock win in Punchestown – where he was a fanciful 20/1 poke against those big names – it would be November before he was spotted again.
The John Durkan Memorial Chase was the comeback race for Galopin Des Champs as well, but Brassil was undeterred and stuck to his target with his stable star.
If anyone was inclined to believe Punchestown first time around was a fluke, that notion could be swept aside as Fastorslow won the two-and-a-half-mile Grade 1 back at Ireland's home of National Hunt racing, with Galopin Des Champs only third behind stablemate Appreciate It.
He had doubled his Grade 1 tally at the first time of asking but Brassil wasn't about to panic. The big races over Christmas were overlooked and, instead, Fastorslow has been given a pair of entries at the Dublin Racing Festival in early February as prep for a likely Cheltenham Gold Cup appearance in March.
Regardless of how form-book analysts choose to interpret the John Durkan success, there can be no doubting that Fastorslow has beaten Galopin Des Champs twice now.
Before that, there is the mouthwatering prospect of seeing them lock horns in the Irish Gold Cup at Leopardstown on 3rd February. Galopin Des Champs trades at 2/5 for that contest at the DRF, with Fastorslow priced at 3/1.
Fastorslow was a winner over fences in France in 2019 as a three-year-old but, after moving to Ireland to join up with Brassil, he'd gone some 603 days without a run when he finished second over hurdles at Punchestown in April 2021.
The following season, Brassil went down the handicap route, contesting a couple of hot races at Leopardstown before travelling to Cheltenham where Fastorslow narrowly failed to wear down Commander Of Fleet in the Coral Cup in the spring of 2022.
Another silver medal followed in a €60k handicap at Punchestown behind Camprond.
Later that year, he was a 66/1 chance in the John Durkan in a highly ambitious chasing bow and finished more than 20-lengths behind Galopin Des Champs in fifth, while he was last of five in the Grade 1 Dublin Chase at the 2023 Dublin Racing Festival.
From there to the Cotswolds and a cracking effort as he attempted to give 4lb to Corach Rambler in the Ultima Handicap Chase and narrowly failed, before that rival headed to Aintree to win the Grand National.
Fastorslow had other plans, as he turned up at Punchestown and stunned Galopin Des Champs and Bravemansgame, just as that heavyweight duo looked set to fight out the Gold Cup prize at the Kildare circuit.
He was still regarded a 9/1 chance when he returned there for a second appearance in the John Durkan but, this time, there was no making up the numbers as Fastorslow confirmed himself as the real deal.
Brassil clearly feels that he has a genuine top-level performer on his hands now and the coming months are certain to provide some key battles, as Galopin Des Champs bids to arrest that run of reverses behind Fastorslow and the pretender ultimately looks to take away the champs' belt come Cheltenham in March.
Any odds displayed were correct at the time of writing and are subject to fluctuation.