Oscars can prove star turn on fencing debut
This afternoon's curtain-raiser at Punchestown is the latest in an array of quality beginners' chases that are taking place as the jumps season gathers pace.
On Monday alone, Lyreen Legend and Jenari emerged on top in a pair of cracking heats that are sure to be shown in a positive light over the coming months.
In today's two-miler, the focus of attention will be on Jessica Harrington's Oscars Well, one of the best hurdlers in the country, as he makes his fencing bow under Robbie Power.
Given a clear round, the dual Grade One winner ought to prove superior to his 12 rivals, though Plan A's presence is significant.
While Gordon Elliott's JP McManus-owned seven-year-old was rated 23lbs lower than Oscars Well over flights at the end of last term, his first stab at the bigger obstacles at Ballinrobe caught many an eye.
Dropped out and tenderly handled by Mark Walsh, he jumped well and finished strongly, leaving the impression that he would have a big day in him yet. If he progresses now, he is capable of exploiting any shabbiness on Oscars Well's part.
However, with Harrington's team in rude health, it will be disappointing if the horse that finished second and sixth respectively in the Irish and English Champion Hurdles doesn't collect.
Notwithstanding a costly blunder at the last flight at Cheltenham as a novice, he jumps well, and will be perfectly at ease on the prevailing testing going.
Harrington's only other runner is Operating in the Facebook & Twitter Maiden Hurdle. An odds-on bumper winner at Punchestown in May, Barry Geraghty's mount is doubtless a fair sort, but this should be Clonbanan Lad's for the taking.
Successful in two bumpers for Mickey O'Connor before running respectably at Cheltenham, the former point-to-point winner has the makings of a proper horse. On his debut for Henry de Bromhead, he appeals as nap material under Andrew Lynch.
Geraghty can secure the longer edition on Prunella Dobbs' Ravensbury, while Sword Of Destiny gets the nod for Davy Russell in the longer beginners' chase.
With De Bromhead's unbeaten Buckers Bridge in opposition, this is another mouth-watering event of its type, but Noel Meade's Gigginstown Stud-owned Sword Of Destiny, last seen winning a Cork Grade Three a year ago, has the form in the book already.