Benbulben the one to side with at Ballybrit
WEATHER permitting, the highlight of a cracking seven-race card at Ballybrit today should be the hurdling debut of Mount Benbulben.
A big-money purchase for Barry Connell in the spring, the Beneficial six-year-old is making his debut for Gordon Elliott in the CCTV Venue Control Maiden Hurdle, having raced last year for the handler's landlady Gillian O'Callaghan.
A January point-to-point winner, Mount Benbulben went on to land two bumpers with ease, putting eight lengths between himself and the subsequent Champion Bumper victor Lovethehigherlaw at Limerick in March.
As the only horse to beat Willie Mullins' charge, it will be a surprise if he doesn't collect for Paul Carberry now.
Of the nap selection's 10 rivals, the race-fit Letter Of Credit is feared.
Also a dual bumper winner, this one ran with credit behind both Lovethehigherlaw and Samain last term, and he has twice been placed in fair hurdles races recently.
The opening maiden sees another above-average bumper type make the transition to jumping. Jenari, which races in the JP McManus colours for a first time here, was third behind Lovethehigherlaw and Waheeb at Punchestown for Jessica Harrington.
Prior to that, he had finished second to Waheeb on his debut before scoring comfortably at Gowran Park, so he is clearly a horse of some potential.
In what is a relatively weak Corrib Oil Sean Cleary Memorial-sponsored four-year-old contest, he should get his campaign off to a successful start under Robbie Power.
In the €19,500 Faber Audiovisuals Ballybrit Novice Chase, McManus' colours will be carried by John Kiely's Sweeps Hill and Niall Madden's Ainama. The consistent Sweeps Hill should go close on its return from a break, but preferred is Westmeath.
One of two that represent Gigginstown Stud in the six-runner Grade Three, the Paul Nolan-trained six-year-old did lots right when scoring on his fencing bow at Gowran Park recently.
In just seven previous starts, he had already won a point-to-point, a bumper and a maiden hurdle, so he has the profile of a horse that can keep improving.
Earlier, McManus' Louisville Lip appeals as the type to keep on the right side of in the Sanserv Handicap Hurdle. Killarney winner Made In Taipan heads the weights in this competitive two-miler, with Morning Ireland, Inspector Clouseau and Priors Gold others with respectable recent form.
However, Louisville Lip is a horse with a touch of class, albeit one that has yet to fulfil his potential. From three hurdling starts last season, he won on his debut and finished a fine third behind Nearest The Pin and Princeton Plains at Fairyhouse.
This term, he has twice shown up well to be placed on the Flat, and a rare disappointing turn over flights at Listowel can be forgiven.
Conveniently, he has come down a pound in the ratings for that, with the net result being that he gets in off a very attractive 10st 1lb today.