Pique Sous has class to atone for Cork defeat
Thurles racecourse, one of Irish racing's quintessential National Hunt tracks, gets its season under way with a relatively low-key spread this afternoon.
The highest profile horse to feature on the busy eight-race programme is Pique Sous, Willie Mullins' Champion Bumper third.
A three-time bumper winner that proved a shade disappointing on its jumping bow at Cork in August, the French-bred five-year-old should be up to making amends in today's maiden hurdle for Ruby Walsh.
Under Emmet Mullins at Cork, his hurdling lacked fluency at times, and he was caught flat-footed when Ted Dolly quickened on the run to the final flight. However, Pique Sous travelled like the decent prospect that he is throughout, and it's reasonable to assume that he will prove a more formidable opponent now.
The Harry Rogers-trained Giant's Quest has a chance under Davy Russell following a fair second at Navan last month, with Prince Chaparral, Dale Street and Cool Klan others that have been running well.
If Pique Sous improves as much as can be expected from his debut, though, they will be playing for the minor places again.
Both divisions of the beginners' chase promise to be informative. In the first leg, Bridgets Pet, representing Tony and Danny Mullins, is fancied to have a shade too much class for the likes of Boss Croaker, Spot Fine and The Westener Boy, having kept on well to be third on his first try over the bigger obstacles at Ballinrobe.
Jetson is napped to take the second leg, though the two-mile-six-furlong heat will be no stroll for Jessica Harrington's seven-year-old. Paul Nolan introduces a potentially smart Gigginstown Stud-owned 'point' winner Panther Claw, with Castle Wings and Farrells Fancy others that would be up to this task on a good day.
Still, Jetson was an eye-catcher when staying on for third over an inadequate two-and-a-quarter-mile journey behind Protaras and Nearest The Pin on his fencing debut at Gowran Park. Robbie Power has been rather harshly replaced by Barry Geraghty now, but that doesn't alter the impression that Jetson is the best horse in the race.
In the conditions hurdle, Muirhead would be the highest-rated hurdler at his peak, but operates at a level below that these days. At a big price, Whodoyouthink appeals for the in-form Oliver McKiernan stable.