Marconi to make shock waves for O'Brien in Hurdle
If Modem is to get his chance at claiming a little bit of history in the Guinness Galway Hurdle, he will need one of the 20 horses above him to be declared a non-runner up to an hour before the first race.
Just three horses have won the qualified riders' Flat handicap on the opening night of the Ballybrit festival before conquering the showpiece two-mile hurdle three days later.
As the first horse in the ballot, it looked certain that Jessica Harrington's five-year-old would be able to stake his claim.
However, every one of those guaranteed a run stood their ground. In a move that echoes the manner in which AP McCoy's name appeared alongside that of JP McManus's Carlingford Lough in the Plate two years ago, Robbie Power has been booked to ride Modem, rather than Macnicholson or Rae's Creek, both of which make the cut and are also trained by Harrington.
McManus's Like Your Style controversially made way for Carlingford Lough. Once again, then, there is an inevitable sense that the Turlough Blessing-owned Modem will yet get in.
Rae's Creek is one of five that is currently poised to sport some variation of McManus's silks, with Barry Geraghty opting for last year's Tony Martin-trained hero, Thomas Edison. Martin will also saddle Ted Veale - third to Modem on Monday - and the strong market leader, Quick Jack.
Successful in the 2014 day-one feature, Quick Jack will be ridden by Denis O'Regan, with Ruby Walsh opting for Diakali of Willie Mullins's quintet.
Like Geraghty, Walsh is searching for a breakthrough success in a €300,000 contest that is the most valuable jumps race ever run in this country.
With Diakali and fellow top-weighted stablemate Thousand Stars responsible for five Grade One triumphs and the 2015 County Hurdle hero Wicklow Brave also set to carry more weight than last year's runner-up Bayan, it is a desperately high-quality renewal.
Whether any handicap befits such a distinction is a completley different argument.
1.50 Guinness Dublin Porter Beginners' Chase 2m 6f
Clondaw Farmer clung on in a bumper here last year and then won over hurdles in the north. He is clearly a fair horse but this won't be easy after a year off.
As De Ferbet has been second in his last four starts and tends to get brushed aside easily, while Waaheb didn't impress here on Tuesday. Shantou Flyer switches back to fences after blundering his chance away at Downpatrick. He ran well in the meantime over hurdles and isn't without a chance.
Verdict - Shantou Flyer has live claims.
2.20 Guinness Harp Novices' Chase 2m 2f
Rock The World emerged with credit when second to The Game Changer at Roscommon, keeping on well in conditions that might have been too sharp.
He had previously won impressively at Ballinrobe. Having looked a reformed character over fences, Fort Smith failed to cope in more competitive company at Kilbeggan. Shesaportrait is a serious mare. She is on a hat-trick here, while Sizing Platinum's form took a knock when Hash Brown was held on Tuesday.
Verdict - Rock The World is the one.
3.00 Hop House 13 Handicap 1m
Cairdiuil went out on his shield again on Tuesday. He loves it here and this longer trip will be more to his liking.
Pat Smullen has opted for the 2011 winner Rock Critic, which bounced back to form when short-headed at Sligo last time. Sophie's World won here last year and rarely runs a bad race.
Verdict - Old soldier Cairdiuil appeals.
3.30 Arthur Guinness EBF Listed Corrib Fillies' Stakes 7f
Tested won a Group Three after getting run out of this in a tactical affair a year ago. She flopped over shorter last time but her profile is sound. Her opposition consists largely of improving handicappers. Laviniad and Gussy Goose are maybe most likely to step up.
Verdict - An on-song Tested surely wins.
4.05 Novices' Hurdle 2m 4f
Despite dropping in trip, Sandymount Duke is a real player. As he showed at Tipperary, he never gives in.
The likes of Grecian Tiger, Fearachain, Full Cry, Bay Of Freedom and Credo Star all have claims, while Gangster won tidily at Roscommon and the placed horses have both won since.
Verdict - Gangster looks pretty serious.
4.45 Guinness Galway Hurdle 2m
Diakali is a classy individual whose win record doesn't do him full justice.
Twice successful in Grade Ones as a novice, he competed well at the highest level before missing last term. On his Tipperary return, he won with a touch of panache from the redoubtable Thousand Stars, which is nine pounds better off here. Both have prospects despite their burdens.
Wicklow Brave is up 15lbs for his stunning County Hurdle win. He has been in fine form on the Flat but has a lot on here. While last year's runner-up Bayan always puts in a shift, he is handicapped close enough to his limit by now, likewise his 2014 conqueror, Thomas Edison, which hasn't shown a spark in two outings this year.
Barry Geraghty has stuck with him, and Mark Walsh is on Aidan O'Brien's Marchese Marconi. He skated up in a maiden hurdle here in 2014, and, on his only other start over two miles since then, he would have won at Fairyhouse only for unseating his rider at the last. He beat the re-opposing subsequent easy winner Aminabad at Ballinrobe and a strong gallop will suit.
Last year's big Flat race winner Quick Jack has run just twice over flights since January 2014, placed on both occasions, including in this year's County. He is weighted to go close again. Hidden Cyclone is well treated in relation to his chase mark, but is a 10-year-old that hasn't run over flights for four years and was best in soft ground over further then. He won tidily on the Flat at Leopardstown but this is a much different task.
Verdict - Marchese Marconi can run well at big odds for Mark Walsh.
5.25 Guinness 50th Anniversary Handicap 1m 3f
Magic Kitten sneaks in at the bottom. Blinkers seemed to work the oracle at Gowran Park in May and he might still be well treated. Bog War may also be favourably handicapped. He improved over flights in the winter so he has the scope to exploit this Flat rating as well.
Verdict - Bog War is nap material.
6.00 Guinness West Indies Porter INH Flat Race 2m 2f
Prince D'Aubrelle has been one-paced in twice finishing second, so he will relish this trip. Lieutenant looked big and raw under Sarah O'Brien on his Cork debut; he can do better yet.
Verdict - Lieutenant is feared but Prince D'Aubrelle should win.