Mullins firm can keep it in the family to land another big prize at Limerick
A second fascinating clash between Outlander and Free Expression in the Shannon Airport Novices' Chase is the main attraction on a cracking spread at Limerick this afternoon.
The €42,000 Grade Two has attracted classy performers such as Sir Des Champs and Gilgamboa in recent years.
Once again, there is an emphasis on quality over quantity, but the likelihood is that one or both of the main protagonists will yet go on to big things as well.
David Mullins - so polished at Punchestown last month when thwarting Faugheen aboard Nichols Canyon to plunder a breakthrough Grade One - has been rewarded with the mount on the Gigginstown House Stud-owned Outlander.
The 19-year-old's cousin Danny has also been drafted in by their prolific uncle Willie Mullins for Avant Tout.
Either horse could step up, but Outlander's overall profile has a bit more to it. Of course, he was thwarted at odds-on here a year ago, but time would show there was no disgrace in that.
His conqueror Martello Tower went on to achieve glory at Cheltenham, and Gilgamboa would also succeed at the highest level before the season concluded. Only time will tell if this afternoon's spread - which will, as ever, be run in deep ground - might produce future stars.
Chances are, though, that there is at least one nugget in there.
12.35 Irish Field Juveniles' Maiden Hurdle 2m
A race to avoid for betting purposes. Boost Buddy and Making Shapes are among the better newcomers off the Flat, with the latter Charles Byrnes representative obviously one to note in the market.
Gordon Elliott's Tocororo showed up well when second to Lake Champlain at Down Royal in August, as did Oiche Mhaith Boy when filling the same spot behind Footpad at Gowran Park. That is probably superior form and Kieran Purcell's charge seems to relish the mud.
Verdict: Brian O'Connell's mount Oiche Mhaith Boy gets the nod.
1.10 Signplus Hurdle 2m 4f
High Stratos has the benefit of race-fitness. A Navan maiden hurdle winner in deep ground in March, he left two poor efforts behind to be third to Thomas Hobson on his Punchestown return.
He must concede weight here. Buiseness Sivola is another that likes deep ground, but, on a line through Petit Parisienne, his Willie Mullins-trained stablemate Kalkir might have more to offer.
A close second to Petit Parisienne in a Leopardstown Grade One last February, he appears to have a touch of quality about him.
Verdict: If Kalkir strips fit, he is the one to beat under David Mullins.
1.40 Woodlands House Hotel Maiden Hurdle 2m 3f
Figurative ran its best race yet when second to Great View here in November, and Great View has since franked the form by winning again. If Figurative continues to progress, he will be thereabouts again.
River Run reappears for a first time since flopping on its debut for the champion trainer more than a year ago, while Late Night Jazz may be the pick of the rest.
Third to Jetstream Jack first time up at Clonmel, he then fell three-out behind Yorkhill at Punchestown.
Verdict: Hard to get away from Figurative in such modest company.
2.10 Grade Two Shannon Airport Novices' Chase 2m 3f
Outlander was the best of these over hurdles. Run out of it here by Martello Tower last year, the seven-year-old went on to reverse that form in a Leopardstown Grade Two, before running well to be placed at Fairyhouse behind the talented Shaneshill and at Punchestown behind the progressive Nichols Canyon.
He saw off Free Expression on his Punchestown fencing bow without too much fuss and sets the standard. Free Expression has since been third to No More Heroes in the Drinmore, which probably constitutes an improved turn. This is a fairer test and he is a horse with loads of scope to improve.
Outlander's stablemate Avant Tout made a successful fencing debut at Tramore in May and hasn't been seen since. He has only been beaten once in five completed starts but whether he will be quite good enough for this is hard to predict.
Verdict: Outlander is trusted to reinforce his superiority.
2.45 O'Kelly Brothers Demolition Mares' Handicap Hurdle 2m
A three-parts sister to the Gold Cup victor Kicking King, Whistle Dixie won the bumper here last year. She has since won another and recently drew nine lengths clear to score over flights at Navan.
Kevin Sexton's mount could well defy top-weight for a rating of 119, and she is proven in gruelling conditions, as is Is Herself About. If David O'Brien's charge runs to her best on her return from a 224-day absence, she won't be far away.
The Conker Club is a pretty reliable yardstick, while Blazing West is in a rich vein of form. She is on a hat-trick here after winning easier than it looked for a second time in succession at Fairyhouse last week.
Verdict: With her rider's claim, Blazing West gets 17lbs from Whistle Dixie, which gives her an edge.
3.15 Ladbrokes Ireland Handicap Chase 2m 3f
Top-weight Rightville Boy comes here in good heart.
He won nicely at Thurles after finishing third at Fairyhouse, and is far from exposed, so he is no forlorn hope now off a seven-pound higher rating.
Michael Hourigan's Adams Wood has shown potential. He gets in off a low weight after a year on the sidelines, with Irish Bulletin another local horse to consider. First and second in two previous starts here over flights for Eric McNamara, Brian O'Connell's mount is well handicapped on his best form.
Verdict: It wouldn't be a surprise to see Irish Bulletin bounce back to form.
3.50 Lyons Jaguar & Land Rover INH Flat Race 2m
Robbina, Derrygereen Girl and Seeking Susan have shown most in terms of track form, albeit at a reasonably modest level. Any of them could step up if the newcomers aren't up to much, but there is a couple of promising types in the latter category.
Carrigeen Lobelia and Jodies Miss have shown plenty in point-to-points, but Freeway Space and Black Franks Angel look a little more precocious.Henry de Bromhead's Black Franks Angel impressed between the flags when winning at Mainstown last month and has Derek O'Connor up again, which augurs well for the daughter of Black Sam Bellamy.
Verdict: Black Franks Angel could be the one to keep on side.