Erlkonig fancied to make amends at Bellewstown
A cracking €26,000 two-mile-one-furlong handicap hurdle spearheads the final programme of activity at Bellewstown's July Festival this evening.
Rawnaq, third in a Cheltenham Festival handicap chase before falling at Aintree, is the top-weighted of 15 runners.
Matthew Smith's smart eight-year-old was a convincing winner on returning to hurdles at Down Royal, form that was franked when the well-beaten fourth To Choose obliged here on Thursday.
This won't be easy for Rawnaq, but he could turn out to be a serious Galway Plate contender yet, so it will be interesting to see how he fares. Charles Byrne's JP McManus-owned Rock On Fruity is one at the lower end of the weights that will likely have a say under Mark Walsh, following a tidy Kilbeggan maiden win.
In truth, there is no end of horses with chances, but the one that might be worth siding with is Erlkonig. Tony Mullins' grey remains unexposed, having run only five times over hurdles since his arrival from Germany.
A Tipperary winner in 2014 before twice running well in defeat, including when third at Ballinrobe off 124, Erlkonig was running a blinder when crashing out at the second-last flight on his reappearance at Punchestown last month. If none the worse for the experience, he has the capacity to get involved here off a mark of 123 under Danny Mullins.
Gordon Elliott has plenty of chances of continuing his irresistible run of form. Of his six runners, Vercingetorix appeals most in the conditions hurdle.
Aidan O'Brien's Marchese Marconi will be the one to beat in the McManus silks in this, but the four-year-old Vercingetorix receives a stone from him when you factor in the excellent Jack Kennedy's claim. He is capable of exploiting those conditions.
Elliott's Mr Steadfast is likely to be thereabouts in the maiden hurdle. However, preferred in that is Harry Kelly's Trainstation.
Sean Flanagan's partner has been placed in both of its starts over flights, latterly getting thwarted by My Manekineko at Limerick after being left in a commanding position at the final flight. Given that this is just Trainstation's fourth start, he has scope to find the progression necessary to triumph against largely modest opposition.
Strongly fancied to justify the nap vote is O'Brien's Tesseract in the bumper. It isn't a bad winners' race, but the Ballydoyle genius's bumper team has been in tremendous form under his daughter Sarah, and Tesseract really looked the part when obliging at Tipperary.