Dancing Tornado can blow away rivals
Harvest Festival history could be made in Listowel today if Limerick trainer Eric McNamara's syndicate-owned Ponmeoath becomes the first horse to win the Guinness Kerry National for a third time.
Paul Townend takes over the reins this afternoon from Paddy Flood, who partnered the Flemensfirth gelding to victory in the 2007 and '08 renewals of the €160,000 feature, as well as 12 months ago when they were sixth behind Northern Alliance.
The latter is back in the Kingdom also seeking further Guinness glory from Tony Martin's yard but will have the current campaign's leading rider Andrew McNamara on board instead of reigning champion Ruby Walsh, who switches this time to the Willie Mullins-trained Deutschland.
Walsh was confined to a spectator's role in Galway when Tony McCoy got his name on the Tote Plate roll of honour with Tom Taaffe's Finger Onthe Pulse, which shoulders an 8lb penalty when attempting to emulate Life Of A Lord in 1995 by following up here.
Again there's a change of jockey for today's showpiece involving the Ballybrit victor, with Mark Walsh on Taaffe's charge now and McCoy switching to Michael Hourigan's Dancing Tornado. It could be significant that McCoy is partnering Hourigan's hurdles winner at Naas last March in a race for which the Limerick stable are also responsible for top weight Mossbank.
Now a 10-year-old, Mossbank is bound to come on for this belated comeback outing in a race with a maximum field of 18 from which 11 would-be contenders were eliminated yesterday, including the David Pipe-trained pair Qulinton and Swing Bill.
That scenario leaves this a purely domestic affair and I won't be surprised if McCoy manages to add the Guinness promotion to his extensive list of big-race victories, already boosted this year by Champion Hurdle and Grand National wins in addition to the Galway Plate.
Hourigan is no stranger to Kerry National celebrations as Deep Bramble and Dorans Pride did the business long before Native Performance struck again in 2003 and he gave Dancing Tornado a useful pipe-opener over hurdles in Killarney last month when third to Slieveardagh and Dreamy Gent.
Back on a mark just 1lb above the 135 rating he defied in 2008, Ponmeoath, which likewise warmed up for Listowel over hurdles in Galway behind Gudnis Gracious Me, can be expected to give his supporters a good run, while it might be unwise to dismiss Finger Onthe Pulse, even over this longer trip. Northern Alliance rates a greater danger than Alfa Beat, despite an enviable winning streak since joining Charles Byrnes.
Pipe, who has been keen to make his mark in Listowel, brought over the consistent Battle Group for the preceding Ballygarry House Hotel Novice Hurdle despite not getting either of his lowly rated hopefuls into the Guinness National and this Newton Abbot runner-up to Raslan last month should make the frame for Tom Scudamore.
However, Pipe's charge has a mark of 132 which could leave him vulnerable, conceding 3lb apiece to 133-rated Our Gar and Carrigmartin, which have each won their last two races.
One Cool Tornado is another progressive novice that has been paying his way and helps make this a tricky affair, having run as well as could have been expected when second to Silverhand at Galway.
Dermot Weld may have found the right vehicle for Address Unknown to recoup the Ballybrit losses incurred when overhauled by Rajik in the Oyster Stakes as Pat Smullen's well-bred mount drops somewhat in class for the Ladbrokes Conditions Race while, at the other end of the Jackpot, triple bumper victor The Real Article is taken to defeat Riverstown on his jumping debut in the Intervet Maiden Hurdle.