The increasingly potent Don McCain-Jason Maguire combination is fancied to score with both of their representatives at Carlisle tomorrow.
In the opening hurdle, Moscow Presents has a second stab at hurdling after finishing second in what looked a fair novices' contest on his Uttoxeter reappearance six weeks ago. On the assumption that he will come on some bit for that experience, he should prove very hard to beat in this more moderate two-mile affair.
Border Phoenix is a bit of an unknown quantity, having finished second in a bumper at Ayr on its racecourse bow. He will surely come on for that too, but Moscow Presents, a son of leading Rathbarry sire Presenting, has a more complete profile.
Prior to Uttoxeter, he was placed in both bumper starts, so he has a clearly established level of ability. Although ultimately well held on his hurdling bow, he was beaten only by the highly regarded previous winner, Un Bon P'Tit Gars. That sort of form represents a fair standard in this company.
Mount Hope is the partnership's runner in the longer novices' hurdle, which looks a better race.
Green Flag, Forty Crown and Gonow are all winners already, as is Mount Hope. On his first start for McCain in May after being bought following a bold show in a Dromahane point, the Albano five-year-old won a Sedgefield bumper by six lengths.
That came on fast going, so when he failed to feature on his hurdling debut at Bangor in October, the slower conditions looked to blame.
However, it may simply have been that Mount Hope needed the run, as McCain's decision to head for Carlisle tomorrow on heavy ground would suggest that he isn't worried about the conditions.
Outsider to note
Saville Row, a bumper winner for Jessica Harrington at Down Royal two years ago, might be worth an each-way venture at long odds at Carlisle tomorrow.
The Snurge seven-year-old displayed a reasonable level of ability over hurdles before being punitively handicapped, and his final foray for Harrington over flights, when fourth to Kerb Appeal at Punchestown in spring 2011 off a career-low mark of 119, was one of his best. In the meantime, he simply didn't take to fences.
Tomorrow, Saville Row, now in the care of Andrew Crook, reverts to smaller obstacles in the amateur riders' race. He has top-weight, but that is for a lowest ever rating of 100, with his rider Darren Costello taking a further valuable 7lb off.
Carlisle 12.40 – Moscow Presents
Carlisle 1.40 – Mount Hope
Carlisle 3.20 – Saville Row
Fairyhouse 2.40 – Monksland
112 – 8st in pounds, the new minimum weight on the Flat in Britain as of next season. It follows the Turf Club's move to raise the bottom weight here to 8st 4lb this term.
Quote of the week
"It would be boring if you didn't say what you think. We're too politically correct these days. I got into trouble on Saturday because I said some kid was fat. He was sitting on the rails dressed like a jockey, so I said that he'll have to go on a diet if he wants to be a jockey. But he was fat – don't try to tell me he isn't fat, because he is!"
– Channel 4 racing pundit John Francome, with the sort of characteristically straight-talking offering that will be missed when he departs at the end of the year.
Three things we
learned this week
1 Declan McDonogh is Johnny Murtagh's replacement as the Aga Khan's retained rider in Ireland. Coming when it did at the end of November, there was no great fanfare about the appointment, which is in keeping with all of the main protagonists' way of doing business.
It was also the nomination most anticipated in light of last season's later bookings, and it is a deserved vote of confidence in the 2006 champion jockey, who simply hasn't had the ammunition to compete for a title since.
As Kevin Prendergast's stable jockey, McDonogh took what big-race opportunities came his way, and the SPs of three of his four Group One winners – 7/1, 16/1 and 3/1 – are a reminder of the sort of rides he is used to at the highest level.
A determined attitude has earned him a reputation as a strong rider, which is a back-handed compliment in one respect. With a bunch of nice Aga Khan three-year-olds to look forward to, next season he will get the chance to prove he has the temperament to match his muscle.
2 The Turf Club appeals panel sets the bar for consistency. In previous cases such as that of Rogue Angel's demotion at Fairyhouse and Duntle's at Leopardstown, the referrals committees held firm by vindicating the respective race-day stewards' decisions to side with the victim rather than the perpetrator.
At Dundalk on Friday, however, the consensus was that those on duty were incorrect in demoting First Friday. Admittedly, with a nose margin, it was a tight call, but the runner-up, Balmont Flyer, got to the front inside the distance and couldn't stay there.
He didn't deserve to be awarded the race and the appeals panel were justified in reinstating First Friday on appeal, though that is no consolation to those that lost on the night.
3 Forpadydeplasterer has got his groove back. Three and a half years, 18 starts and nine runner-up finishes after his glorious Arkle triumph at Cheltenham, Tom Cooper's stalwart got his head in front again.
Imagine if you'd been told back then that the next race Forpady would win would be a three-mile chase in heavy ground at Thurles, in 2012, with the trainer's son Bryan up.
The kid, many people's idea of a future champion, hadn't even ridden a winner at the time. Lots of water under the bridge since.
Monday: Kempton (AW), Plumpton, Wolverhampton (AW)
Tuesday: Folkestone, Wolverhampton (AW)
Wednesday: Wexford, Catterick, Hereford, Kempton* (AW), Lingfield (AW)
Thursday: Clonmel, Leicester, Market Rasen, Wincanton, Wolverhampton* (AW)
Friday: Dundalk* (AW), Exeter, Lingfield (AW), Sandown, Wolverhampton* (AW)
Saturday: Navan, Aintree, Chepstow, Sandown, Wetherby, Wolverhampton* (AW)
Sunday: Cork, Punchestown, Kelso, Warwick