Article can prove Real deal
Geraghty's mount to take big prize as Grade One triple bill ramps up the jumps season
The domestic jumps season cranks up another notch with three fascinating Grade Ones scheduled for Fairyhouse tomorrow.
A tip-top programme that has repeatedly been disrupted by various extremes of weather in recent years, this time round it is expected to proceed uninterrupted -- though conditions will be typically testing.
That is going to suit some more than others, and there are sure to be a few tall reputations laid to waste by the close of business.
As ever, the sequence of events that will help to establish the campaign's emerging pecking order should make for compelling viewing.
12.20 Bar One Racing Juvenile Hurdle 2m
Sam Bass made amends for his Gowran Park reversal when defeating Burrenbridge Lodge at Cork. He should continue to progress, and sets the standard here.
Burrenbridge Lad has something to prove now, while One Cool Shabra, which he just overhauled at Gowran in October, is going the right way. At Punchestown last time, Oliver Brady's charge made most before drawing clear of 'Shark' Hanlon's Thegondolier in commanding fashion.
Wrekin Rock, Thegondolier, Tugboat, Argocat and His Excellency all have some sort of chance, as does Rossvoss. Ruby Walsh's mount ran out of gas on his first try at hurdling here recently, but he should strip fitter this time.
Verdict: Rossvoss did plenty right first time and can improve to score.
12.50 Royal Bond Novice Hurdle 2m
Galileo's Choice is a fascinating runner in this for Dermot Weld. A Group Three winner at Leopardstown in September, he ground out a result on his only previous try over hurdles at Galway in July and must rate a threat to all now.
Sous Les Cieux, surprisingly turned over at short odds on his first start for Willie Mullins in January, showed his true colours when cantering up at this venue last month. The five-year-old is a classy prospect that should have no trouble whatsoever coping with a half-mile drop in trip.
Il Fenomeno, a progressive second-season novice, made it two from two this season when denying his exciting stablemate Dylan Ross in a Grade Three at Navan. That is the best form on the book, and Noel Meade's representative is obviously going the right way.
Verdict: Sous Les Cieux is fancied to add to a facile win here last time.
1.20 Drinmore Novice Chase 2m 4f
Mouse Morris' Cheltenham Festival winner First Lieutenant has warmed to his task over fences, making amends for a narrow defeat at Cork by setting the record straight back at the Mallow venue last month.
While he may ultimately excel over further, tomorrow's conditions hold no fears for him, and it is significant that Davy Russell has opted for him over Bog Warrior.
The latter -- unbeaten in three completed starts -- looked a fair operator when comfortably accounting for Flemenstar at Navan.
Given Flemenstar's subsequent rout at the same track a week ago, it is a piece of form that reads particularly well.
Alpha Ridge -- like stable-mate Shinrock Paddy still a maiden over fences -- finished second in this two years ago, while Rivage D'Or is unlikely to be quite good enough.
Verdict: First Lieutenant is taken to confirm his class.
1.50 Hatton's Grace Hurdle 2m 4f
On paper, this isn't the vintage renewal that it has been in previous years, though it could yet prove informative. The Real Article is of particular interest.
Narrowly beaten in bizarre circumstances at Tipperary in July, the Edward O'Grady-trained six-year-old has since confirmed his immense potential by securing a pair of Grade Two successes.
At Down Royal most recently, his performance to pull clear of the dual Grade One-winning Oscars Well was impressive, and that one went on to be second to Thousand Stars in the Morgiana.
Mikael D'Haguenet continues to look a shadow of his old self, but Mourad and Final Approach should feature prominently for Willie Mullins.
A year ago, Mourad finished two lengths behind Voler La Vedette when fourth, and the mare is again a contender.
An easy victor on her Navan reappearance, she won't get a better shot at a Grade One.
Verdict: The Real Article can make a triumphant transition to the highest echelon.
2.20 Irish Stallion Farms EBF Mares' Handicap Chase 2m 4f
Our Victoria might have landed a decent prize, but for tipping up two-out at Clonmel last time. On her handicap bow, Colin Bowe's runner can figure prominently.
Twelfth Of Never, Cloughmile and Miss Pepperpot all bring winning form to the table. The last named is on a hat-trick after collecting at Naas and Thurles last month.
Verdict: Miss Pepperpot could oblige again for her in-form rider off a light weight.
2.50 Batterstown Chase 3m 5f
This is going to be a dour test of resolve in stamina-sapping going, and remarkably few have recent placed form to recommend them.
Smoking Aces can be unpredictable but the JP McManus-owned gelding sports blinkers for the first time, having kept on to be fourth in the Cork Grand National in November.
Streets Of Gold, which runs in the same green and gold colours, won that race a year ago and was well held in sixth this time, while Droim Toll finished a place further back.
Verdict: Blinkers may help Smoking Aces to raise his game.
3.20 INH Flat Race 2m
Thomas Edison was an eye-catcher on his sole start when third over hurdles at Down Royal, so should go close here.
Sizing Italy has an interesting jockey booking in Patrick Mullins, though The Mighty Milan has the best form. TJ Nagle's runner was a fair second to the smart Corbally Ghost at Thurles first time.
Verdict: The Mighty Milan is the nap selection.