Patience should prove a virtue in big one for Martin's Benefficient
WILLIE MULLINS may have witnessed each of his three odds-on favourites in yesterday's graded races come unstuck, but there is always another day for the champion trainer.
By the close of business, his relentless juggernaut could be back on its merry way, as he unleashes two more of the heavy artillery in Leopardstown's Grade Ones.
Arvika Ligeonniere vies for a fifth win at the highest level in the Paddy Power Dial-A-Bet Chase, while Moyle Park bids for a first in the Future Champions Novice Hurdle.
Both are exciting prospects, but it's a tribute to the competitiveness of the fare on offer at the Foxrock venue this week that you can make strong cases for both getting beaten.
Such had been the one-sided nature of the season up to yesterday that when Clondaw Court edged home in the opening maiden hurdle, it was the 14th time in succession that a Mullins-trained odds-on shot had collected.
Of course, credit must go to the brilliant handler for that consistency, but it was also indicative of a lack of meaningful opposition.
That is certainly not the case here as the Christmas festival cranks up another notch, with Philip Fenton's Royal Bond hero The Tullow Tank one of those sure to serve it up to Moyle Park in the big hurdle race.
In the featured €100,000 Dial-A-Bet Chase, Nicky Henderson, JP McManus and AP McCoy are represented by Kid Cassidy.
Conqueror of the Tingle Creek Chase victor Sire De Grugy -- which tackles the mighty Sprinter Sacre at Kempton -- last time, Kid Cassidy will be joined by Tony Martin's dual course Grade One winner Benefficient.
Then there is the not inconsiderable challenge of one Sizing Europe. Henry de Bromhead's 2012 winner is rising 12, but hasn't been out of the first two for three years.
Last term, Sprinter Sacre was the only horse to beat the former champion, so Arvika Ligeonniere will probably have to do a bit more than simply turn up this time.
a 90-plus Flat horse, Plinth is of note on his hurdle bow for Aidan O'Brien.
Willie Mullins' Ivan Grozny, placed in Group company in France, would merit a similar mark, while Moss Street -- below-par last time -- is the pick of those with hurdle form.
Verdict: Plinth should have a big say in JP McManus' colours.
Defining Year only won two of his 19 Flat starts but had a bit of class. Rich Coast took a Listed race in October and will come on for his Cork fifth to Rathvinden.
Quickpick Vic was just one from six in bumpers, but he is no slouch, while Ebazziyr has two wins in that sphere.
Champagne James was a fine bumper winner at Navan last year and then found only Union Dues too good there in graded company.
Verdict: The exciting Champagne James can overcome his lay-off to land the nap.
Arvika Ligeonniere has plenty pace, so the drop in trip isn't a worry. The left-handed track is.
He won the big novice here in 2012, but jumped badly right and did so again before falling in the Arkle.
His record this way is 1-5 as opposed to 7-9 right-handed.
Sizing Europe is no back number. He won nicely on his return before coming undone over an unsuitable three-mile trip in the north.
At Cheltenham and Punchestown in the spring, only Sprinter Sacre bettered him, so he is sure to be thereabouts.
Kid Cassidy, conqueror of Tingle Creek hero Sire De Grugy at Cheltenham last time, is a quirky sort. Still, he has a touch of quality and may be suited by the small field.
Hidden Cyclone is interesting back over two miles, though he and Rubi Light have a bit to prove at this level. Benefficient didn't appear to stay three miles on his return.
However, he will strip fitter now, and in three starts here he has won two Grade Ones.
Verdict: The race could tee up nicely for Benefficient if he is ridden patiently.
Moyle Park is clearly highly regarded, and wasn't stretched to take his unbeaten record to three on his hurdle bow at Navan.
That said, the form hasn't held up too well, and his pedigree and style of running suggest he may yet excel over further.
The Tullow Tank continues to progress, scoring for a third time on the spin when quickening late on to secure the Grade One Royal Bond Novice Hurdle.
He has real quality, although, notwithstanding a Naas win, he has hung going this way before.
Arctic Fire was eye-catching when coming third from off the pace in the Royal Bond, while The Game Changer is beginning to mature and could be a dark horse here.
Verdict: The Tullow Tank can overcome concerns about racing left-handed to score.
Arnaud has a lot on his plate under top-weight, but has been mixing it at a fair level and couldn't be written off. In truth, a case could be made for most of these.
The form of Never Enough Time's Cork second reads well and he is a horse with potential.
Verdict: Never Enough Time has lots in his favour off a light weight.
Top weight does nothing for the progressive Home Farm's chance, but he remains a player.
His third to Rupert Lamb at Naas over an inadequate trip was encouraging, so the Irish Grand National third should figure prominently back over a distance of three miles.
AP McCoy's mount Cause Of Causes is unproven at the trip but is certainly well handicapped on his hurdle form.
Questions Answered, back to form over flights of late, loves a test, though he is probably still high enough in the handicap.
Daring Article's stable does well in these races here.
He is seeking a hat-trick off a light weight with conditions to suit, so may not be done with yet.
The novice Clonbanan Lad warrants consideration on its handicap bow off a fair mark, while last year's runner-up Romanesco would certainly have a chance at its best.
Verdict: Home Farm has the scope to prove himself ahead of the handicapper.
Bosman Rule looked one-paced when second on his debut so this longer trip may help him.
Like It A Lot and No More Heroes can improve, while the market will be a guide as to what can be expected of first-timers Rube Barrow and Subtle Ben.
Verdict: Like It A Lot's narrow Galway second to The Winkler stands out on paper.