Venture Capital is fancied to upstage Willie Mullins' leading Aintree Grand National prospect Prince De Beauchene in the Woodlands House Hotel Hurdle on day 2 of the Christmas racing festival at Limerick.
Ruled out of the big race in Liverpool at the 11th hour this year, Prince De Beauchene has its first start now since beating Black Apalachi in the Bobbyjo Chase in February. With the champion trainer anxious to protect the nine-year-old's rating, outings over fences will be limited ahead of the National and he certainly has the scope to do well over flights, having readily won on one of his only two previous attempts.
That all said, Prince De Beauchene will hardly be quite 100pc today, which should be to Venture Capital's advantage. Bought by JP McManus after readily beating Bright New Dawn in a Fairyhouse bumper a year ago, the Philip Fenton-trained son of Presenting scored at the first time of asking over flights at Wexford recently.
Granted, Brian O'Connell's mount didn't beat much there in the context of this competitive seven-runner affair, but he remains a fair prospect. While only time will tell just how good Venture Capital is, it will be a let-down if he doesn't go close here.
Mullins' only other runner on the card, Mr Groocock, should take the Roches Feeds Maiden Hurdle under the trainer's nephew Emmet, while Noel Meade might be the man to keep on side in the Tim Duggan Memorial Handicap Chase.
With €26,000 available to the winner, this is the day's most valuable heat at the Munster venue. Won by Grand National third Seabass in 2011, it is suitably well contested, as the Eric McNamara-trained Kerry National hero Faltering Fullback (right) is among a 16-strong field that isn't easily deciphered. However, Meade's Thouva is unexposed, having run just twice over fences, and four times in all, since completing its French bumper career.
At Wexford last time, the five-year-old defied testing going to secure a debut victory, beating solid if unspectacular opposition in the process. Thouva will obviously need to progress again if he is to follow up here under John Cullen, but surely has the scope to do so off a mark of 121 for just 10st 8lb.
In the Limerick Racecourse Vets Handicap Hurdle, War Of Words looks the pick for Denis Ahern, who is based in Dungourney, Co Cork. Placed in its last three starts, the son of Dushyantor might never get a better chance to win a race here under Martin Ferris.
The preceding Goggin Buckley Engineering Handicap Hurdle is a similarly weak affair, with just two of the 12 starters, Thepartysover and Sherika, boasting any sort of recent form. Of those two, Sherika appeals as the more solid option.
A first winner for Co Galway handler Grainne O'Connor, a sister-in-law of point-to-point kingpin Derek, at Gowran Park a fortnight ago, the Beneficial mare has improved steadily this season.
Sherika is up eight pounds for her success now, but such was her superiority on the day and the lack of worthwhile opposition that she faces here that you'd struggle to make any sort of case against her under the ever-reliable Mark Enright.