After ready to reign at Leopardstown
Ruby Walsh left the bookmakers in a bit of a spin yesterday by opting for Buiseness Sivola over Kalkir in Sunday's Coral.ie Hurdle.
An ante-post gamble on Kalkir had seen him head the market for the €100,000 two-mile handicap despite not having run for 310 days.
Pulled up in the Triumph Hurdle on that occasion, Kalkir had previously been second to Petit Parisienne in a Grade One over Sunday's Leopardstown course and distance.
Now the mount of French rider Jacques Ricou, who is on a busman's holiday at Mullins' yard, Kalkir has been pushed out to as big as 14/1, having been 5/1 earlier in the week.
Buiseness Sivola, in contrast, has gone the other way, his price tumbling from 20/1 yesterday morning to as low as 8/1 with the sponsors, a firm that is making its first foray into Irish racing sponsorship.
One of four charged with securing the champion trainer his third win since 2011 in this prestigious handicap, Buiseness Sivola is another making its seasonal reappearance.
Also second to Petit Parisienne in a Punchestown Grade One, he was last seen finishing fifth at Auteuil in June. Given that Walsh has opted to get off not one but two Rich Ricci-owned runners - Bamako Moriviere being the other - Buiseness Sivola's chance must be respected.
As ever, the 25-runner contest is massively competitive. JP McManus is responsible for nine of the starters, with Barry Geraghty choosing the Shay Barry-trained After Rain.
Another that was widely available at up to 20/1 prior to yesterday's final declaration stage, After Rain was last night the clear market leader at as low as 6/1, though there was still plenty of 8/1 about. It isn't hard to see why the money has come for him.
A good winner at Killarney in August, the six-year-old has since been second to the smart Gangster, prior to winning again at Wexford.
After Rain made its handicap bow at Fairyhouse on November 28, keeping on well to be third to Blue Hell off a mark of 123.
Diamond King and Keppols Queen, which finished either side of him that day, have both since won at their leisure, so the form reads well. Given that After Rain is having just his sixth hurdle start, he has the scope to keep improving. As such, off a 2lb higher rating for just 10st 4lb, he appeals as a live player.
Geraghty has a serious chance in the equivalent chase aboard Tony Martin's Heathfield, though Fine Rightly is preferred in that.
Stuart Crawford's charge has won his last three starts over fences, and is trusted to defy a 7lb hike in the ratings for his latest Navan win to collect under Andrew Lynch.
Mullins' Pylonthepressure ought to be hard to beat under Bryan Cooper in the maiden hurdle, while Mullins and Walsh are expected to take the Grade Two novices' chase with Killultagh Vic.
Again, Cooper could provide the main opposition here aboard Lord Scoundrel, but Killultagh Vic is a versatile sort with a great attitude that has a real touch of class on his day.
Earlier, Billy's Hope warrants the nap vote in the mares' maiden hurdle. This is not an easy race to assess, with plenty of the 18-strong field sure to progress as time goes on.
A Punchestown bumper winner, Billy's Hope ran well to be third to Coney Island on her hurdle bow here last month. If she comes on for the experience, she ought to take a bit of stopping under Robbie Power.