33/1 Gorbatov worthy of each-way punt
The comments of Patrick Mullins in his exclusive column in this newspaper should worry those who pile into Faugheen on his return to action in Leopardstown's BHP Insurance Champion Hurdle tomorrow.
Not seen since winning the race last year, the brilliant 2015 Champion Hurdle winner has been back in work for some time but Willie Mullins repeatedly resisted the temptation to run him. Until now.
Clearly, anything like his rout in this 12 months ago will suffice. The trainer does not expect him to run to his mark and, in Petit Mouchoir and Nichols Canyon, he faces Grade One-calibre foes.
And here is the quandary: all three of them want to lead or be handy. Could it be that last year's Triumph winner Ivanovich Gorbatov will pick up the pieces?
There are holes in the main three. Faugheen is likely to come on for the run, Nichols Canyon has his limitations and Petit Mouchoir looks a bit flattered by what happened at Christmas.
With the ground perfect for him, Ivanovich Gorbatov could sneak into the frame at 33/1 and, if he can stay in touch, he may even cause a major surprise.
Min misses the Frank Ward Solicitors Arkle. In a way, the race is now more worthy of analysis. Identity Thief was the best of these hurdling and, while he has to get over his mishap last month, he looked a more than able jumper previously.
The same can certainly not be said of Bleu Et Rouge, which seemed scared of jumping in a maiden two days afterwards, though he somehow still managed to win. Seemingly, he has schooled well since - though he did beforehand too.
It is a De Bromhead-Mullins duel. Their respective second strings, Some Plan and Royal Caviar, are no back numbers.
Tomorrow captivates. What of Melon, which finally bids to live up to the chat in the Donohue Marquees Maiden Hurdle? Whatever he is, he should be sharp enough to take what looks a winnable maiden.
The Nathaniel Lacy & Partners Solicitors "50,000 Cheltenham Bonus Stable Staff" Novice Hurdle is a cracker. Let's Dance could be the one and Ruby Walsh rides but Joey Sasa beat a promising filly in Barra and he will have his supporters.
On the eve of the Pro Bowl, Dallas Cowboy can justify nap selection in the first handicap chase. This Beneficial-bred has been disappointing but jumps brilliantly and can benefit from reverting to this distance now.
In the second handicap chase, Katnap is given another chance. He had his first start for Joseph O'Brien at Christmas and things went awry early but the market was really positive about him and the chances are he can prove that anomalous.
Debuchet represents Mags Mullins, who has sold smart bumper winner Dr Wallace to JP McManus. He is to hurdle for Martin Brassil. Debuchet beat Le Richebourg at Naas; it may be a different story in the finale.
Naas' feature Woodlands Park 100 Club Novice Chase is a superb race today. Preference is for A Genie In Abottle, which stays and jumps like a pro.
The Limestone Lad Hurdle, another Grade Three, can go to Ivan Grozny, a Cheltenham dark horse, though Sutton Place could make him work for success now.
Ivan Grozny developed into a high-class dual-purpose performer last year and he will light up the betting ring. Leomar is taken to score in the opener, while the same connections may double up with Mossback in a winnable EBF maiden hurdle.
Lagostovegas won her maiden hurdle at Naas, boosting her appeal in the handicap hurdle under Sean Flanagan, while The Gatechecker is napped in the handicap chase. A useful bumper can see Alan Fleming continue his resurgence with Barry Connell's Borderline Chatho.