Bobs Pride looks Grande for Ruby
JUMPING returns to Navan this afternoon, with another all-National Hunt card at Clonmel tomorrow signalling the fast-increasing onset of the winter campaign.
Today's feature is Le Grande Chase, a two-and-a-half-mile contest that sees the once mighty Nicanor return to the track at which he got off the mark over fences last February.
The dual Grade One novice hurdle winner in 2006 has struggled to recapture his best in recent months, but this is a venue that he has always run well at. While it's not easy to see him winning, an improved performance is expected.
An in-form Gordon Elliott bids to maintain his position at the top of the trainers' table with Chicago Grey in the €13,650 event, but preference is for Bobs Pride under Ruby Walsh.
The Dermot Weld-trained gelding fell at the final fence in the Galway Plate when still in contention, and returned with a solid effort to be third to Farringdon at Ballinrobe on Monday. If he can build on that, he looks the pick.
Walsh has another interesting mount in the Albany Hurdle. In all, 12 are set to go to post for this two-mile, six-furlong conditions race, but Sivota is the one everyone will be watching.
A facile winner of a handicap at the Punchestown Festival on its second outing for Willie Mullins, Sivota has been found another good opportunity by its shrewd handler. His Punchestown rout saw him raised 23lbs by the handicapper, yet today's weights would appear to favour him greatly.
The improving Rayhani, which has won two of its last three hurdle starts, may be the danger. If that one copes with the slower ground, it won't be far away under David Casey.
Elsewhere on the card, the classy Sweeps Hill has strong claims under Casey in the beginners' chase. Representing the John Kiely-JP McManus tandem that has been in such prolific form of late, the New Zealand-bred gelding ought to have too much for Fitzfirth, which made a respectable fencing debut when fourth to Essex at Listowel.
Kiely also has strong claims with Araucaria in the mares' maiden hurdle, while there is no more exciting proposition on show than Mouse Morris' First Lieutenant in the opener. Unbeaten in a point-to-point and a bumper, the Gigginstown-owned son of Presenting carries a huge reputation into its hurdling debut.
Tomorrow, Kiely is again well represented at Clonmel, but his Listowel winner Wise Old Owl may have to give best to the more experienced Dream Champion in the Irish Stallion Farms EBF Captain Christy Novice Chase. Walsh again is the booked rider here for Tony Martin's runner, which has already won three times in recent months.
In the www.clonmelraces.ie Novice Hurdle, Charles Byrnes' Ballinrobe maiden winner Cyborg may be the one to consider, with Big Game Hunter the clear form pick on its return in the Laganore Maiden Hurdle. Highly tried last season, this represents a big drop in class for the Sadler's Wells four-year-old.