Lieutenant's class to count on chasing bow
The National Hunt horses look poised to upstage their Flat counterparts on a cracking dual-purpose bill at Tipperary tomorrow.
With Sizing Europe on course to return at Gowran today, another one of the record-breaking 13 Irish-trained Cheltenham Festival winners is set to make its seasonal bow. On this occasion, it is the reappearance and chasing debut of First Lieutenant -- which, like Sizing Europe, failed to add to his haul at the Punchestown Festival -- that jumping fans will be eagerly anticipating.
A facile victor on his sole point-to-point and bumper starts, Mouse Morris' son of Presenting showed plenty of courage at Prestbury Park in March when he was a last-gasp winner of the two-mile-five-furlong novice hurdle.
Having previously landed the Future Champions race at Leopardstown, the Gigginstown Stud-owned representative was completing a Grade One double at Cheltenham, yet this strapping gelding has never looked anything other than a chaser.
In the Grade Three Like A Butterfly Novice Chase, First Lieutenant now gets the chance to jump fences in public. Granted, with recent winners Slieveardagh and Granaruid in opposition, he has been set a tall enough order but it will be both surprising and disappointing if Davy Russell's mount doesn't prove up to the task as he possesses so much class.
The Grade Two Friends Of Tipperary Hurdle promises to be an equally intriguing affair, with The Real Article set to renew rivalry with Eddie Harty's former Supreme Novices Hurdle winner Captain Cee Bee, partnered by Tony McCoy.
Following the latter's controversial triumph over the Edward O'Grady-trained The Real Article here in July, O'Grady's six-year-old went on to finish fourth behind Moon Dice in the Galway Hurdle -- a respectable effort considering he's still essentially a novice.
On The Real Article's only subsequent run, he cantered up in a bad race on the Flat at Wexford. With the likes of Donnas Palm, The Bull Hayes and Luska Lad among the nine-strong field here, tomorrow's €34,125 contest will be harder won.
However, the weights are framed to favour a progressive sort such as The Real Article, which is due to be ridden for a first time by Barry Geraghty now.
In the other graded jumps race on the card, Tom Mullins' Tavern Times is preferred over Jessica Harrington's Fairyhouse winner Steps To Freedom in the Grade Three novice hurdle, while Dermot Weld's Anam Allta gets the nod in the featured Concorde Stakes, a seven-furlong Group Three.
The Coolmore-sponsored event is wide-open with a mixed bag of 11 runners, but Anam Allta is by far the least exposed. On just her fourth career start, Weld's three-year-old won a handicap at Galway in July, before then finding only John Oxx's classy Alanza too strong in a Listed race over course and distance last month.
Aidan O'Brien holds a strong hand in the opening juvenile contest and Willie Supple is given a rare chance to ride a winner for the Ballydoyle camp with Battle Of Saratoga, which was outclassed in a Group Three at York last time out. O'Brien, meanwhile, has confirmed the Maybe will end the season unbeaten after connections decided to draw stumps for the year.