Fiveforthree's return can pay off for Mullins
Frequent heavy showers are threatening both this afternoon's Punchestown fixture and tomorrow's Clonmel meeting, with the Tipperary venue deemed unraceable yesterday ahead of this morning's further 9.0 inspection.
An hour earlier at the Kildare course, Turf Club officials will decide the fate of today's card, where Willie Mullins has chosen the opening conditions hurdle for the belated, though welcome, return to action of his former Cheltenham and Punchestown star Fiveforthree.
This classy nine-year-old was last seen taking the Ladbrokes World Series Hurdle in style at the April 2009 Festival, having also landed the 2008 Ballymore Novice Hurdle in the Cotswolds, and has been attracting ante-post support lately for a proposed tilt at Big Buck's next month.
Entered in Saturday's Red Mills Trial Hurdle at Gowran Park as well, Fiveforthree appears to have a much simpler task on his plate around today's inner track, where just the veteran former Cheltenham hero Newmill and often-placed On The Way Out should pose any real threat.
Despite dropping back a mile in distance this time, Paul Townend's mount is nominated to make the lengthy wait on the part of the Arzanni gelding's syndicate owners for his rehabilitation begin to pay dividends, as he won a bumper at this meeting in 2007 over the minimum trip.
The Follow Us On Facebook Hurdle, likewise, presents the yard's Call The Police with an ideal opportunity to get back in the winning groove, following an encouraging comeback effort at Leopardstown last month when leading in the MCR Handicap Hurdle pack behind stable companion Final Approach.
The extra four furlongs now will hardly bother the son of Accordion on the evidence of that stamina-packed display and he's preferred to the youthful mare Leblon plus Across The Bay and Clan Tara -- whose outings over fences have lacked much conviction this season.
The latest in the Rockview series of bumpers sponsored by leading Dublin owner Barry Connell may well fall to the Mullins stable, too, as the Old Vic gelding Alfred James makes his debut in a race that Mullins captured three years in a row with Freds Benefit, Fiveforthree and Cousin Vinny.
However, the Closutton handler's Downpatrick bumper scorer Pickapocketortwo -- which son Patrick also partners in a more competitive second division of the Festival Package Maiden Hurdle -- might not quite measure up to John Queally's more recent Tramore victor Flying Light.
The nap selection, though, is Gordon Elliott's English import Martin Scruff, which has a mere 4lb mandatory penalty to shoulder in the Hen Party Handicap Hurdle, which completes the Jackpot, following the Oscar gelding's facile Thurles success over the same trip last Thursday.