Ainama can hit mark on chasing bow
The final day of the Killarney May meeting sees some smart recruits make their fencing debuts, with Ainama and Mossey Joe providing an exciting clash in the featured O'Keeffe, O'Shea, O'Connor Solicitors Novice Chase.
Formerly trained by Nicky Henderson, Ainama has maintained a high level of form over hurdles since JP McManus switched him to Niall 'Boots' Madden and the seven-year-old has already won two races at Cork for the Naas handler.
Last time out, the mount of Niall 'Slippers' Madden put in another admirable effort in a handicap at the Punchestown Festival, where he was nine lengths fourth of 24 participants behind Truckers Delight, to whom he was conceding 18lbs.
While Gordon Elliott's Cottage Oak and the Charles Byrnes-trained Campbonnais are two other smart hurdlers having their first crack at the larger obstacles, chief danger looks to be Mossey Joe, which won a novice hunters chase at Tipperary 13 months ago.
Since then, the former point-to-pointer won a decent novice hurdle at Cork, finished a respectable seventh to the high-class Mourad at Leopardstown before finishing two lengths second to Askanna in a Grade Two novice hurdle at Punchestown last time.
Obviously, a lot will depend on how they take to their new vocation, and while Mossey Joe probably has the slight edge in experience, Ainama gets the nod on the basis that his Flat form shows he can handle the conditions.
The card opens up with another interesting contest for chasing recruits as decent handicap hurdler Alpine Eagle tries his luck in the Irish Stallion Farms EBF Beginners Chase.
Jessica Harrington's charge showed progressive form over the smaller obstacles last term, running respectably in the MCR Hurdle at Leopardstown and if he takes to fences he could see off improving chaser Sounds Of Jupiter and Arthur Moore's Meritorious.
It's over a year since Nans Best last tasted success, but he has run some creditable races in defeat since and will have his supporters in the Killarney Outlook Handicap Chase.
The consistent veteran Mantell looks to have strong claims, while Mick The Tooth looks well handicapped on the back of what he showed in bumpers and novice hurdles from a couple of seasons ago, but the colours of JP McManus could be found in the winner's enclosure again if Harolds Cross can rediscover the form which saw him finish second at Leopardstown's Christmas Festival.
The competitive Irish Stallion Farms EBF Median Auction Maiden gets the Flat proceedings under way and Tommy Stack's Betrothed is likely to start favourite after being collared late on at The Curragh. However, a chance is taken on Paul Deegan's Free Art, which might finally get reward for a string of consistent efforts.
Balladiene won nicely at Gowran last week and reappears under a penalty in the Next Racing Festival July 11th To 14th Handicap, but he will have to contend with Spin Of A Coin, El Toreros, and Gra Geal Mo Chroi with a tentative vote going to the last named.
Via Mia and the rejuvenated Bricks And Porter look the likeliest contenders in the Killarney Vintners Handicap, while the closing conditions race could be ideal for Dermot Weld's Sense Of Purpose as the stable won the corresponding contest 12 months ago.