Annie Power to steal show with touch of class
Annie Power lends a touch of star appeal to the season finale at Punchestown this afternoon.
Willie Mullins' exceptional mare was conquered for a first time in 11 starts by More Of That in an epic World Hurdle at Cheltenham. She drops in trip for today's mares' Grade One – a €100,000 race that isn't without some depth.
The daughter of Shirocco is a heavyweight title-holder being challenged by less distinguished scrappers, though the Scottish Champion Hurdle heroine Cockney Sparrow is no slouch.
Mullins, who will top the trainers' pile for an eighth time, is responsible for 50pc of the six-runner field.
He relies on Abbyssial and Adriana Des Mottes in the quest to thwart Tiger Roll and Guitar Pete in the AES Four-Year-Old Champion Hurdle, and his delegation in the €100,000 Setanta Sports Handicap Hurdle is mind-boggling.
Of the 25 runners, nine hail from his relentless Closutton operation. Ruby Walsh, champion for a first time since 2010, has opted for Upsie. He doesn't often get it wrong.
2.30 The Irish Field Chase (banks) 3m
Sizing Australia just held on in this last year, while Star Neuville was third. Sizing Australia's recent form is better, and Keep On Track was a fine second in the La Touche Cup on Thursday.
His stable-mate Be Positive looked made for this job when winning here two days earlier.
Verdict: Enda Bolger's Be Positive can thwart a few more hardened rivals for Nina Carberry.
3.05 Madra Irish Dog Food Handicap Chase 3m 6f
Plenty of established stayers on duty here, with Jonjo O'Neill's Storm Survivor having finished second to Night In Milan off this mark in the Grimthorpe at Doncaster on its latest outing. Jupitor, Carry Each Other, Sword Fish and Caim Hill are rarely far away, and Unoccupied is due some luck.
Verdict: Storm Survivor will relish this marathon examination.
3.45 Grade One Mares' Champion Hurdle 2m 2f
Annie Power is a mare of rare quality. Her chance in the World Hurdle was compromised by her keen running style, yet she still went down fighting to More Of That in a thriller.
Back over this trip, Ruby will doubtless let her settle wherever she finds her rhythm, so she may not even see another horse. Last year's winner Glens Melody ran her heart out again to be fourth on Thursday, although she may be suited by further these days.
Cockney Sparrow was fourth to Quevega at Cheltenham, and then beat My Tent Or Yours in the Scottish Champion Hurdle. This will be tougher off level weights, but she has quality.
Verdict: Cockney Sparrow is a respected but Annie Power is a little bit special.
4.20 Grade One AES Champion Four-year-old Hurdle 2m
Tiger Roll was an authoritative Triumph Hurdle winner. He has run just three times in his life, finishing second to Guitar Pete in a Leopardstown Grade One before Cheltenham.
Guitar Pete was soundly held by five lengths there, and the Grade One that he won with such flamboyance at Aintree wasn't as strong a race on form. However, he is a beacon of consistency.
Abbyssial is a cracking chasing prospect, with any rainfall sure to be to his advantage.
His stable-mate Adriana Des Mottes won a non-event of a Grade One at Fairyhouse and is held by him on form, while the remainder also need to step up to have a say in this.
Verdict: Tiger Roll is hard to oppose.
4.55 Palmerstown House Pat Taaffe Handicap Chase 3m 1f
Prince De Beauchene drops in grade after running admirably in the Grand National, and his stable-mate Away We Go was far from disgraced on his reappearance in the Irish equivalent at Fairyhouse. Ruby has opted for Prince De Beauchene, but it will have been a tight call.
Wrong Turn has lost his way but would be a live option if the market suggests more is expected now.
Verdict: Prince De Beauchene is trusted to excel in this lesser company.
5.30 Setanta Sports Handicap Hurdle 2m 4f
Upsie caught the eye of the stewards when third to Thousand Stars and Get Me Out Of Here at Fairyhouse. She's unbeaten in two starts here.
Smashing emerged with plenty of credit when fourth behind Whisper and Get Me Out Of Here in the Coral Cup. Hisaabaat, fifth in the Galway Hurdle, is of interest back over flights now under Davy Russell, after warming up with a win on the Flat at Limerick.
Fairyhouse scorer Valmy Baie is on the upgrade, with top-weight Un Temps Pour Tout a fascinating David Pipe contender.
At Ascot, he annihilated Cole Harden, which finished a similar distance behind Faugheen at Cheltenham and then chased Beat That home at Aintree.
Verdict: Un Temps Pour Tout is napped to confirm himself a serious operator.
6.05 K Club Hotel, Spa & Ryder Cup Venue Bumper 2m
Attribution is a €97,000 point-to-point-winning brother to Punjabi, with his fellow Gigginstown Stud-owned debutant Jerusalem Bells commanding a similar price.
Verdict: Attribution is the one with the most progressive profile.