Hughes' Rare Bob to make light work of top weight
With no high-profile meeting in England today, Ruby Walsh takes the opportunity to put in a rare Saturday shift on an Irish racecourse at Navan.
The seven-time champion jockey, who remains 18 clear of his closest pursuer Davy Russell in this year's title race, is booked for five mounts at the Co Meath venue.
In the day's feature, the Irish Form Book An Uaimh Chase (5.05), Walsh partners Willie Mullins' talented Glencove Marina. A winner over course and distance on his chasing debut in December 2007, Glencove Marina has looked a shadow of his old self since returning from nearly two years off, and he will need to step up his game if he is to have a say in this afternoon's Grade Three.
Russell has opted for the dual course winner Made In Taipan over Arthur Moore's veteran Mansony, while Watson Lake, winner of this race in 2006 and second 12 months ago, is another old-stager that cannot be discounted.
Preference, though, is for Rare Bob, which has to give two pounds and more to his 10 opponents. A Grade One winner at Punchestown in April, Dessie Hughes' eight-year-old improved on his seasonal debut when third under top weight in a handicap last time. Should he strip fitter again now, he will be hard to beat under Paddy Flood.
Walsh partners Lilywhitedancer for Mullins in the Kilberry Novice Chase (3.55). Recent Downpatrick winner Mighty Massini sets the standard here, but there is little strength in depth among the nine runners and Lilywhitedancer is fancied to take advantage of the three pounds he receives from that one.
A winner of a maiden hurdle at the course 12 months ago, Mullins' King's Theatre gelding broke its duck over fences at Fairyhouse in December. He was subsequently out of his depth behind An Cathaoir Mor in the Arkle Chase at Leopardstown, and this is a more realistic assignment.
In the previous handicap hurdle, Shorecliff King doesn't receive much help from the handicapper but could be progressive enough to defy a four-pound rise, while Macidoni may be the pick in the Oldcastle Handicap Hurdle (4.30). This is a competitive contest, but Mervyn Torrens' six-year-old is progressive.
They also go over the sticks at Downpatrick tomorrow. The Sean Graham Bookmakers Maiden Hurdle (2.15) gets the seven-race card under way, with Fearnwood Girl and Tara Warrior out to build on recent placed efforts.
However, the Mullins-Walsh axis may again be to the fore with the debutant Final Approach. A son of Pivotal, the four-year-old was decent on the Flat, and should win if he takes to the jumping game.
In the Saintfield Hurdle (3.55), Gordon Elliott's Roi Du Mee, a horse that could improve for the bit of better ground that is forecast, gets the nod, while Elliott's Supreme All Star will also appreciate the going in the Crossgar Handicap Hurdle (3.20). Supreme All Star showed distinct promise in similar conditions when third at the track three weeks ago, and may not be badly treated on his handicap debut.