Killultagh Vic can prosper despite drop in trip for Navan chasing bow
Competitive cards at Fairyhouse and Thurles this weekend was intended to precede a welcome five-day break for trainers, jockeys and staff ahead of the manic Christmas schedule.
However, the second rescheduling of Clonmel's December 3 fixture for Tuesday has foiled that prospect.
It will be the second week in a row that jump jockeys, in particular, are denied a mid-season hiatus - this week's intended five-day lull having been undone by a replacement meeting at Navan on Monday and the original switch of Clonmel's card to Wednesday.
Given that some riders had booked holidays, it is a slightly unfortunate situation.
Inevitably, though, those blank days in the calendar are open to being filled in this manner - mainly because of racecourses' aversion these days to abandoning a card due to the enormous sum of media rights money that would be lost. As a result, they will go to extreme lengths to reschedule.
Hopefully, the two weekend spreads will go ahead as planned. Conditions today at Fairyhouse will be testing, which shouldn't do any harm to the chances of Killultagh Vic on his fencing bow. Willie Mullins' Cheltenham winner stepped up to three miles to win at Punchestown in the spring, beating Thistlecrack and Shaneshill.
That is like a serious piece of form, so the main concern here would be that the beginners' chase is over just two miles. With A Sizing Network and Rogue Trader among useful rivals with fencing experience, any deficiencies in Killultagh Vic's armoury will be exposed.
Nonetheless, given how deep the ground will be, this is sure to be a pretty stiff test. A year ago, Killultagh Vic found only L'Ami Serge too good over the same trip at Ascot, so he is fancied to have sufficient quality to collect ahead of going on to bigger things.
Mullins clearly doesn't want to bottom out Ruby Walsh's mount on his return, but neither would he run him over the distance if he didn't think he would do himself justice.
The all-conquering trainer should also take the three-mile version with Roi Des Francs. Gigginstown Stud's six-year-old found only the classy Monksland too good on his debut at Gowran Park, so he is the one to keep on side here.
Georges Conn, second in the Troytown Chase at Navan last time, is among those that could give the selection plenty to do.
Mullins and Cooper could also take the rescheduled Kerry Group Stayers Novices' Hurdle with Gangster.
This will be the fourth attempt at hosting the Grade Three after it was twice lost at Cork and once at Clonmel.
Gigginstown's second string Cogryhill and Joe Dullea's improver Damut are threats, but Gangster looked pretty good at Listowel in September. If he steps forward for that, he and Cooper should collect.
Mullins' French import Allblak Des Places could prove formidable in the juveniles' hurdle, but slight preference is for Aidan O'Brien's Outspoken.
In its first three Flat starts, the Galileo brother to Sadler's Risk and Say won twice and finished second here. He was then beaten less than a length off a mark of 99 at York, so he is a smart horse. If he translates that level of performance to this job and handles the ground, then he could take a bit of stopping under Jody McGarvey.
In the bumper, Charles Byrnes' strong-finishing Cork runner-up Commeragh Trix appeals as nap material under Nina Carberry, while tomorrow's vote goes to Just Cause in the novices' hurdle.
At Thurles tomorrow, the Mick Winters-trained Perfect Woman and Dermot McLaughlin's Conal are both live contenders in the featured novice hurdle, which also includes returning 12-year-old Seabass. However, the Mouse Morris-trained Just Cause might have a little more quality.
Run out of it by Roman Gold here last month, he is having just his third run over flights and looks a fine prospect.
Barry Geraghty, who partners The Westerner Boy in that, might score on Daliyan, his only other ride on the card. Rodger Sweeney's charge sports first-time blinkers in the two-mile handicap hurdle. He was a fine third to Noble Inn at Clonmel, a turn that could yet look even better after today's big hurdle race at Ascot.