County casualty Desoto has nap appeal for Elliott at Fairyhouse
Published 29/03/2016 | 02:30
Nominating naps in 15-runner handicaps on a festival card won't become a habit but Desoto County appeals as a solid option at Fairyhouse.
Fairyhouse's three-day Easter gathering comes to a close with a largely competitive programme. Local hero Gordon Elliott will saddle four in the card's most valuable event, the €55,000 novices' handicap hurdle.
However, he relies on just Desoto County in the €50,000 Farmhouse Foods Handicap Hurdle, and the suspicion is that one will be enough. Willie Mullins and Ruby Walsh combine for the versatile Clondaw Warrior.
The nine-year-old Royal Ascot victor will doubtless be popular, but Desoto County, which missed the cut for the County Hurdle at Cheltenham, simply looks that bit more unexposed.
Three times a winner and three times a runner-up in its first six starts for Don McCain after winning a 2013 point-to-point, Desoto County's form flattened out a little on its last three runs for McCain.
He then switched to Elliott's care, and won tidily on his Thurles debut for the stable in December. Off a 10lb higher rating of 126 at Leopardstown in January, he was beaten just over four lengths by Henry Higgins in the old Sweeps Hurdle.
On the bare form, that was a fine turn, but it might have been even better than that, as the seven-year-old son of Hernando didn't enjoy the clearest passage at a crucial stage in the race from the second-last flight.
When he got out, he finished with a flourish, so he might still have a little bit up his sleeve. Off the same mark here, then, Desoto County is fancied to take a bit of beating under Bryan Cooper.
In the preceding feature, Elliott will run Robin Thyme, Double Scores, Space Cadet and Jury Duty. Cooper has eschewed Double Scores and Noel Meade's Road To Respect in favour of Mullins's top-weighted Burgas, while Barry Geraghty is aboard Coney Island for JP McManus and Eddie Harty.
The EBF-sponsored feature is as wide open as it should be, but Elliott's Robin Thyme might be the one to keep on side under Walsh.
Without a win in its first six starts on the track, this six-year-old son of Robin Des Champs is a lovely, long-striding individual that won't come into its own until it goes over fences.
Nonetheless, he looked as though he was beginning to mature when stretching seven lengths clear of Long Way Back to score at Punchestown last month, having shown plenty of promise previously.
Robin Thyme makes its handicap bow now off a mark of 128 for 11st 7lb. This won't be easy, but he has the scope to improve a long way beyond his rating.
Walsh is also expected to take the Normans Grove Chase on Twinlight for a second year in a row. Mullins has won this Grade Two five times in the last six years, and this is certainly an interesting renewal, with Days Hotel, Flemenstar and Sizing Granite all worthy rivals on their day, likewise Tom Gamble, which represents the insatiable Kerry Lee.
A fluent winner at this level on decent ground at Ayr last spring, Tom Gamble will appreciate any drying of the ground. He slammed Dodging Bullets by 10 lengths when last seen at Newbury in February, and boasts the highest rating of the six runners on 159.
That all said, Twinlight also swerved Cheltenham, and last year he bounced back from a resounding defeat behind Mallowney in a similar event at Naas to turn the tables in style here.
This time, he ran better in the Naas race when second to Days Hotel, so he can repeat the trick by gaining revenge on Henry De Bromhead's horse.
The champion trainer and his son Patrick get the nod to take what looks a decent bumper with Some Neck, while the opening beginners' chase could go the way of Pink Coat.
This isn't a great race, with just four horses taking on Sandra Hughes's nine-year-old. The last time Pink Coat won was when he took a valuable handicap hurdle here at the 2013 winter festival.
He is hardly the most robust selection, but he frequently ran well in defeat over fences in the autumn. Pink Coat won't get many better chances than this, so he is marginally preferred over Denis Hogan's Mr Diablo on his return.
In the Joseph O'Reilly Hunters Chase, last year's Eugene O'Sullivan-trained winner Drawn N Drank sports first-time blinkers, having recently been well held by the re-opposing Dantes King in a point-to-point.
He is among a number with live chances, but Hedgeinator might be the one to keep on side. Alan Fleming's six-year-old is a half-brother to the Cheltenham winner Black Hercules. Successful at Clonmel last time, he could be a rising star in this sphere.