Douvan out to impress over fences, while Dromnea can take Troytown
Douvan's eagerly-awaited fencing debut promises to be a treat at Navan tomorrow as Willie Mullins continues to unleash the heavy artillery.
Apart from the Arkle Trophy ante-post favourite and his Gold Cup equivalent Vautour, Stone Hard, Potters Point, Augusta Kate and highly-regarded new arrival American Tom are among those that will seek to crank up the champion trainer's momentum over the weekend.
There is little doubt that the insatiable Closutton, Co Carlow establishment will farm plenty of winners and Douvan will surely be among them, but the most valuable domestic prize of the weekend won't be.
Tomorrow's €100,000 Troytown Chase does not feature a Mullins representative - apart from Mags Mullins' Ballychorus.
The in-form mare has a decent chance to continue Barry Connell's fine run of results, but she has plenty weight, while a watching brief is advised on the return after a lay-off of Noel Meade's useful Mullaghanoe River. Meade's Cork National hero Tulsa Jack should figure prominently, likewise the Ted Walsh-trained Punchestown scorer Rossvoss, and Sandra Hughes' Knockanarrigan, which recently regained the winning thread at Down Royal.
The Ladbrokes-sponsored three-miler is as competitive as it should be, but fancied to go close is Dromnea. Mouse Morris's charge did well during its first season over fences last term, albeit he only won twice.
In five placed efforts, though, he ran well behind the likes of Shanahan's Turn, Valseur Lido, Gilgamboa and Blood Cotil. When third to Blood Cotil at Punchestown, Dromnea got closer to the runner-up Irish Cavalier than he did when seventh behind the same horse at the Cheltenham Festival.
In short, he never ran a bad race, and he confirmed the impression that he would have more to give this term when coming up just short against Rossvoss last week. Dromnea should come on plenty for that.
He is six pounds better off with Rossvoss and steps up to three miles for a first time, which could prove crucial to Mark Enright's mount. Mullins relies on Childrens List in the Proudstown Handicap Hurdle. Stuart Crawford's reappearing Fine Rightly looks a player under Davy Russell in this €30,000 affair, but preference is for Walsh's Foxrock.
The Connell-owned seven-year-old ran in the race off the same mark of 128 last year, finishing fifth before going on to earn a peak rating over fences of 164 on the back of his Hennessy Gold Cup second to Carlingford Lough.
Granted, Foxrock has never been as good over flights, but he is surely a better horse now than he was 12 months ago. If so, then he should have a big say in this under Adrian Heskin.
Mullins's Potters Point ought to take the opening maiden hurdle for Bryan Cooper, who is also tipped to plunder the Grade Two novices' hurdle that follows aboard Gordon Elliott's Cogryhill. On what we have seen to date, there is likely to be little between the nine runners, with Ten Times Better, Moylisha Tim, Dallas Cowboy, Falcon Crest, Okotoks and Heathfield all useful individuals.
Cogryhill will need to be decent to win, and he might well be. A point-to-point and bumper winner, he justified short odds in straightforward style on his hurdle bow at Down Royal. He drops in trip now, but could still have the quality to prevail.
At Gowran Park today, Mullins' French import Footpad gets the nod in the juveniles' maiden and Stone Hard might prove formidable in the older horses's equivalent. In the novices' hurdle, American Tom brings a tall reputation to the table. He might prove good enough to win for Paul Townend, but Meade's Gunnery Sergeant appeals more.
Another Gigginstown Stud-owned "point" and bumper victor, the son of Presenting is no slouch and is race-fit. Maybe most intriguingly at the Kilkenny fixture, Meade's Monksland embarks on a career over fences in the beginners'.
Mullins's Roi Des Francs and Elliott's Noble Endeavor will not be brushed aside easily, and the latter has the benefit of a respectable debut effort in defeat at Down Royal.
Still, Monksland is the best horse in the race. Sure, Sean Flanagan's mount has his quirks, but he didn't do much wrong when second to Arctic Fire first time up, so he should win this if he takes to the bigger obstacles.