Bellshill could prove star of show on day one at Limerick
Bellshill, a leading fancy for the Cheltenham Festival, is one of the star entries on day one of Limerick's hugely popular four-day Christmas extravaganza.
While Leopardstown dominates media attention, the action Shannonside tends to be deeply competitive in late December, and the entries for the feature Grade Two Shannon Airport Novice Chase on Monday are high-class.
While Gigginstown House Stud accounts for half of the 14 entries in this €44,500 event over an extended two miles and three furlongs, the Willie Mullins and Graham Wylie pair, Bellshill and Briar Hill, catch the eye most.
Bellshill, which finished second to Ballyoptic in Grade One combat at Aintree last year, then scored at the top level at Punchestown. He won on his chase debut at Gowran by ten lengths in November.
Mullins tends to target this race with some of his best horses, Outlander scoring last year and Sir Des Champs taking the event in 2011. Gordon Elliott, who could run A Toi Phil and Diamond King, has yet to win it.
Tuesday's feature Tim Duggan Memorial Handicap Chase tends to attract a large number of entries and the upcoming edition is no different. New Kid In Town is the only potential runner for champion trainer Mullins, but John Joe Walsh - who snared two renewals in this decade - has two entries, including 2014 winner Page Turner.
The ground at Limerick is heavy ahead of what will be course manager Conor O'Neill's last Christmas festival at the helm before he switches to Punchestown.