Rathlin to make his mark on chase bow
The Buck House Novice Chase is the undoubted highlight of a decent spread at Punchestown this afternoon.
One of three Grade Three events on a seven-race programme, the nine-runner contest puts the more valuable showpiece to shame, with a paltry three declarations all that remain in the subsequent €19,500 conditions chase.
Given that there was €1,200 set aside for the fourth home and that the ground is perfectly safe, that line-up is baffling.
In the two-and-a-quarter-mile novices' race, Rathlin and Shinrock Paddy make their eagerly awaited fencing bows and they are joined by recent chase winners Blazing Beacon, Lucky William and Sorceror.
Of those three, Lucky William appeals most. Tom Cooper's charge's success at Listowel last month had all the hallmarks of a horse that has finally grown into his massive frame. It remains to be seen quite how good Lucky William might be, but he certainly has the scope to go on to better things.
Still, Rathlin and Shinrock Paddy set the standard on hurdling form. With Paul Nolan's novices in excellent shape of late, the dour Shinrock Paddy is not easily opposed, but there is a suspicion that today's trip will suit Rathlin better.
The Gigginstown Stud-owned six-year-old makes its debut for Mouse Morris now, having delivered one of last season's most conspicuous displays in defeat at Cheltenham for Philip Rothwell.
Just 10 days after landing a Gowran Park maiden hurdle, the son of Kayf Tara travelled ominously well to lead at the third last in the Supreme Novices' Hurdle, before eventually finishing a commendable sixth. Over the bigger obstacles under Davy Russell now, Rathlin is expected to fulfil that potential.
In the conditions chase, Russell rides Gordon Elliott's Roi Du Mee. A three-time winner last term, that one can progress but Forpadydeplasterer is well in. While Tom Cooper's stable star is returning from a lay-off, he has had a couple of ailments addressed in the interim and he has 31lbs in hand here with Roi Du Mee.
The other Grade Three, the Ryan's Cleaning Events Specialists Hurdle, promises to be more informative. On their day, any of the five runners could be up to this, with Sunday's Limerick scorer Sailors Warn and Steps To Freedom the form horses.
Having impressed on its hurdling debut at Fairyhouse -- when it had Leceile, an 11-length winner at the Co Meath venue on Saturday, eight lengths behind -- Jessica Harrington's Steps To Freedom is an immensely promising novice. Nonetheless, Sailors Warn probably won with something in hand on Sunday, so he is preferred.
The day's nap selection is Bundle Of Fun in the amateur riders' handicap chase. Since joining Willie Mullins this summer, Bundle Of Fun has shown marked improvement, obliging in fine style over flights at Listowel off a mark of 109.
With that in mind, he gets in here off a very favourable 95, so the trainer's son Patrick might not have the most taxing time of things on his father's only runner of the day.