McCoy set to Fire
A full book of a half-dozen mounts for his main employer JP McManus on behalf of five different Irish trainers should provide Britain's perennial champion Tony McCoy with better memories tomorrow than on his most recent visit to Leopardstown.
A heavy fall two out from the McManus-owned Kempes behind Pandorama in the Lexus Chase during the opening session of their Christmas festival saw BBC's Sports Personality of the Year depart the Dublin venue with an ice pack strapped to a sore wrist.
Typically, that nasty tumble didn't prevent the teak-tough Antrim native from competing successfully at Newbury the following afternoon and McCoy could capture a second major handicap on Irish soil within six months there tomorrow afternoon.
The Charlie Swan-trained Prince Of Fire may not bring inspired form figures to the latest renewal of the €100,000 MCR Hurdle, but McCoy's big-race mount competes off a realistic mark in a race seemingly dominated by ante-post favourite Prima Vista. Mind you, the prime market choices haven't exactly set the world alight in the Grade B extended handicap in recent seasons and Noel Meade's charge is burdened with a hefty 15lb penalty for an admittedly smooth success over this route after Christmas.
What's more, the overall 6lb hike in the weights -- headed jointly by Alpine Eagle and Slieveardagh -- on top of senior handicapper Noel O'Brien's reassessment of Kildare owner Joe Kirwan's six-year-old leaves Paul Carberry's mount on the 10st13lb mark now.
Elsewhere, on a splendidly varied card also featuring the introduction of the Tote Pick Six wager with a guaranteed pool of €20,000, the visiting McCoy sits up on Prima Vista's stable companions Rahan de Marcigny and Jered as well as Bob Lingo over fences.
Philip Rothwell's Ballyburke, which has gained valuable jumping experience at Navan since an impressive bumper success there last winter, gets the ball rolling for McCoy in the opening maiden hurdle, and Cork scorer Ainama from Niall Madden's yard completes his day's work in the Pertemps Hurdle's Irish qualifier.
Whatever their fate with another Cork winner New Phase in the MCR Hurdle, Dermot Weld, younger son Kris and ace amateur rider Robbie McNamara field the likely favourite Waaheb in the bumper, which went to their hotpot Hidden Universe a year ago.
Tote Killiney Novice Chase (1.20)
The key horse here is undoubtedly hat-trick seeker Jessies Dream, which profited most from the final-fence exit of the favourite Mikael D'Haguenet, which seemed poised to outpace him on the run-in of the Drinmore Chase at Fairyhouse last month.
Dropping down slightly in grade but marginally up in trip now, Jessies Dream is obliged to shoulder a 7lb penalty against a mere four rivals but that will hardly anchor him presuming Timmy Murphy gets Gordon Elliott's charge into a proper rhythm once more.
Verdict: Don't oppose Jessies Dream
Tote Handicap Chase (1.50)
Not one of the classier renewals of this Grade A affair over the intermediate distance of two miles, five furlongs as last year's runner-up Jayo tries for compensation after last month's promising seasonal debut at Fairyhouse behind Peak Raider and Lastoftheleaders.
Rare Bob and Follow The Plan at the head of affairs have been disappointing along with Lenabane, Jered and Venalmar, suggesting that the lighter-weighted trio of previous course winner Conem, Silent Creek and Askmeroe should not be taken lightly.
Verdict: Jayo to prove the pick
MCR Handicap Hurdle (2.25)
It's close on 20 years since Glencloud did the business in this long-established and invariably competitive contest for former champion trainer Noel Meade, who has both the favourite Prima Vista and Fairyhouse winner Asigh Pearl to represent him under penalties.
It remains to be seen if Prima Vista can defy the 15lb hike incurred after readily taking the Star Handicap Hurdle over this course and distance on Lexus Chase day as his partner that day Davy Condon switches to Asigh Pearl, raised by a more modest 6lb.
New Phase, which is fresh from a bloodless conditions hurdle win in Cork, and represents one of the most formidable teams in the business along with Prince Of Fire are my two choices to cope with Prima Vista, and preference at their respective odds is for year-younger Prince Of Fire as a sporting wager to add the MCR Hurdle spoils to McCoy's Galway Plate triumph for JP McManus on Finger Onthe Pulse.
Verdict: Go with Prince Of Fire