Face Value to thwart O'Brien raid on Ballinrobe feature
Fresh from adding to his Classic haul at the Curragh on Saturday, Aidan O'Brien turns his hand to the jumps discipline this evening and sends his horse truck west with three runners.
Ballinrobe's €30,000 handicap hurdle over two-and-a-half miles has attracted two O'Brien runners, both owned by JP McManus, in what looks like an extremely competitive heat.
The Jody McGarvey-ridden Plinth, a previous course winner, tops the weights but it is his Ballydoyle stablemate Marchese Marconi which looks the stable's leading light with the owner's retained jockey Mark Walsh doing the steering.
Walsh's mount will carry plenty support on the back of his fine second to Walk To Freedom in a decent novice event at Punchestown, but the vote goes to Face Value for the Ado McGuinness team.
A former winner at this venue, the seven-year-old showed a welcome return to form when third at Limerick last time, and while Phantom Prince finished just in front of him in that contest, Face Value is worthy of an each-way investment with Shane Crimin's valuable seven-pound claim providing added appeal.
Whatever about Walsh's chances in this, the in-form Kildare rider will carry high hopes of landing a double for his 'boss' courtesy of Christy Roche's promising Kilbeggan winner, Off The Mark, in the opener and the Michael Hourigan-trained The Gatechecker in the maiden hurdle.
A far more difficult puzzle for punters to solve is the second of two €30,000 handicaps being run on the card, the McHale Mayo National Handicap Chase.
Ruby Walsh rides the likely favourite in the Willie Mullins-trained Urano which turned in a very solid display when fourth to Heathfield at Punchestown and with just 10-12 on his back, the seven-year-old looks sure to be involved in the business end, though he would probably prefer to see an ease in the ground.
Michael O'Leary's Gigginstown House colours are carried by two representatives in the Mouse Morris-trained pair of Ravished and Band Of Blood. The latter - which ran a career-best when fourth in the Irish Grand National - is the choice of retained rider Bryan Cooper and if his mount maintains his current rate of improvement, Band Of Blood looks the one to follow.
O'Brien, meanwhile, fields an interesting runner in the closing bumper as gives a debut to the McManus-owned Captain Barbossa which might have enough potential to overcome his inexperience and get the better of the twice-raced Colwinston.
Bookmakers had the better of the exchanges at the Co Mayo venue last night, with the Gordon Elliott-trained Eshtiaal (11/8) being the sole winning favourite on the seven-raced card. Victory in the featured mares' handicap hurdle went to Thomas Gibney's 10/1 shot The Nutcracker, which Andrew Lynch steered to a length-and-a-half success from Supreme Vic.