Black Hercules primed to make grade at Thurles
Name the feature event each year of its racecourse that is not the feature event on the day it is held?
Perhaps that is a contradiction but in its downgrading to a Grade Three, Thurles' Ladbrokes Ireland Kinloch Brae Chase today is a rung below the mares' event class-wise and also has significantly less prize-money.
Given that Don Cossack won the last two renewals, its loss of Grade Two status is perplexing, but Horse Racing Ireland's Jason Morris explains that it is somewhat nominal in nature.
"In strategically downgrading it, HRI left the previous prize-money intact and in fact the Kinloch Brae will actually be worth €2,500 more than in 2016 thanks to an enhanced sponsorship contribution."
Whatever the grade, the Kinloch Brae is a cracker, and Black Hercules is taken to belatedly show his best form as a senior chaser. Last year's JLT winner flopped in the John Durkan but his more respectable Leopardstown effort should stand to him now.
Ruby Walsh takes over. With the ground probably too lively for Smashing, the bookmakers are correct to price Sub Lieutenant as the favourite. He has been a revelation under Henry de Bromhead's tutelage and it is impossible to knock what he has achieved this term.
The most lucrative race, the Champs Elysees Coolmore NH Sires EBF Mares Novice Chase, saw Westerner Lady put in at evens yesterday. The temptation was to take her on after the seven-year-old's all-out win last time at Clonmel but nothing makes a convincing case.
In the Hurricane Fly colours, Timi Roli ought to take the first division of the maiden hurdle after a pleasing Cork start, while Willie Mullins and Ruby Walsh can double up in the second division with Al Boum Photo, which drops back in distance.
This is a day when Mullins will fancy his chances of clawing back the lead Gordon Elliott has and Battleford is taken to score in the novice hurdle, though Billy's Hope could offer a bit of value against him at a big price.
Westerner Point gets the nap vote in the handicap hurdle off what looks a nice mark. The worry is whether the Edward O'Grady-trained eight-year-old will be quick enough given the prevailing terrain, but he is tough.
Maguire's Glen was behind Lisclogher Lad at Limerick but that outing can bring him on ahead of the handicap chase, while there will be few in the crowd leaving before a fascinating finale. Ted Walsh's Foxrock can continue to adapt to hunter chase company in a race illuminated by some old favourites.