Ballybrit specialist Fitz fancied to win on return
Rebel Fitz will bid to enhance his fantastic Galway record when he turns out for a first time this year in tomorrow's At The Races Chase.
In five previous Ballybrit appearances, Mick Winters' hugely popular 2012 Galway Hurdle victor has won four times and been second once.
He first won a bumper here at the October meeting back in 2010 and cruised up in novices' chase on his most recent visit in September 2013.
Since successful in Grade One company in the 2014 Powers Gold Cup, Rebel Fitz has been out of the first two just once in his last 18 starts.
He hasn't been seen since cruising home in a Grade Two hurdle at Tipperary last October, but Winters gave serious consideration to having a cut at the Plate with him, only to conclude that this two-mile-six-furlong conditions race would be a more suitable option on the 10-year-old's return to action.
With 11 others set to oppose him, it will be no walk in the park. However, he is fancied to make a winning reappearance under Davy Russell, who is set to be reunited with his trusty old partner for a first time since 2013.
On ratings, Rebel Fitz, which boasts a mark of 155, is thrown in at the weights, and Winters will have him straight enough for this. Barry Geraghty switches to the Plate faller Colour Squadron. Willie Mullins's Indevan also fell in the Plate, and they share the next best rating of 144.
Ruby Walsh prefers Mullins' 2014 Plate third Balnaslow, while Jonathan Burke, his rider 12 months ago, is aboard Loosen My Load. Second to Don Cossack when last seen at Punchestown in October, Henry de Bromhead's veteran can't be written off in what would be an open race if Rebel Fitz happened to misfire.
Burke will also sport the colours of his employers Alan and Ann Potts aboard Sizing Solution in the two-and-a-quarter-mile chase. This is another cracking affair, with 17 set to vie for the €21,125 winner's purse.
If Sizing Solution continues to progress, though, he could be the one to beat. Successful over two miles at Down Royal in the autumn, he ran well in defeat when second to the similarly upwardly-mobile Enjoy Responsibly on his latest start at Killarney.
Behind him on that occasion was this week's winner Empresario, so it was a pretty solid turn. Sizing Solution is two pounds higher now, but he has the scope to step up for Burke.
Gavin Cromwell's in-form mare St Maxime can take the earlier long-distance handicap hurdle, while Baraweez should make a bold bid to retain his Ahonoora Handicap crown.
A year ago, Brian Ellison's raider won the €100,000 showpiece after finishing third in the Topaz Mile five days earlier. This time, he was a fine second in the Tuesday feature, and there is every chance that he will replicate his 2014 feat under Donnacha O'Brien, who takes a valuable five pounds off his 9st 8lb burden.
Pintura is another regular Ballybrit visitor from across the water with a chance, while Sabrina Harty's Have A Nice Day is on a hat-trick after two Curragh wins. At the top of the weights is Ger Lyons' Piri Wango, second in last year's Topaz Mile and sporting first-time blinkers here on this drop back down in class.
The day's nap vote falls to Crystal Pearl in the mile-and-five-furlong handicap. Charles Byrnes' four-year-old went out on her shield when second to Benkei here on Tuesday, drawing well clear of the remainder under Fran Berry. That confirmed the impression that Crystal Pearl is pretty well-handicapped.