THE decision of champion jockey Davy Russell to ride at Limerick rather than Leopardstown this afternoon could be rewarded with a victory on Far Away So Close in the featured Greenmount Park Novice Chase.
A Grade Two that was won by the classy Sir Des Champs for the Youghal native's Gigginstown Stud employer 12 months ago, this year's edition is graced with the presence of Willie Mullins' rejuvenated triple Grade One winner Mikael D'Haguenet.
The luckless eight-year-old finally got off the mark over fences at the eighth attempt when beating Lord Windermere in fine style at Punchestown last time out.
At his best, he would win this €37,500 contest at will, but the suspicion remains that he is vulnerable when challenged over the bigger obstacles.
Tom Taaffe's Argocat, a course and distance winner in October before being held by Twinlight at Galway, is one that may serve it up to Mikael D'Haguenet, but Russell's mount is just preferred.
A consistent sort that has often frustrated, the Paul Nolan-trained seven-year-old raced sweetly in a Fairyhouse handicap off a mark of 130 last time. In the end, he finished second to Lead Kindly Light, but he might have won but for a blunder two-out.
Needlessto say, Far Away So Close will need to improve on that to beat Mikael D'Haguenet and Argocat. However, he could well be maturing at the right time.
Umpact is possibly the main reason Russell has opted to visit the Munster
venue today. A French bumper winner, Tony Martin's four-year-old was utterly impressive when hosing up in a Gowran Park maiden hurdle on his Irish debut.
He reappears now in the O'Kelly Bros Demolition & Environmental
Contractors Hurdle, with Ballynacree, Loch Ard, Courageous Cry and Love Rory all perfectly capable opponents. Still, Umpact is the one with the star potential, so he should win.
Russell is also fancied on John Ryan's Reafadda in the Signplus Maiden Hurdle, while Kilcrea has bundles of appeal in the Anglo Printers equivalent earlier on.
Gigginstown's Shattered Dream, third behind Venture Capital at Wexford last time, has a squeak again here, but Jimmy Mangan's Kilcrea is a more solid option.
Second to the very smart Clonbanan Lad in a bumper here a year ago en route to winning at Gowran Park, the Definite Article gelding signed off last term by returning to finish third to Mozoltov in a decent winners' race in March.
When he reappeared in a maiden hurdle at Tipperary in the autumn, he ran far too badly to be true.
Kilcrea is back now for a first time since then under the trainer's son Paddy. As a point-to-point winner, the step up to two miles and six furlongs should be to his advantage, so he ought to win if he is anywhere close to his best.
At Down Royal, Davy Condon could secure a brace on Noel Meade's Fickle Fortune and Johannisberger, with Great Oak interesting on her switch to hurdles in the conditional jockeys' race.
A fortuitous Grade Three winner at Cork last time, John Nicholson's prolific mare is rated 31lbs lower over the smaller obstacles.
With the excellent Mark Enright taking a further two pounds off here, she could take plenty stopping.