Richard Forristal: Quantum of Tolworth awaits O O Seven
Mullins' Yorkhill faces stiff task in year's first Grade One
No Irish-trained horse has won the 32Red Tolworth Hurdle but Yorkhill is verging on being an odds-on shot to do so today for Willie Mullins.
The unstoppable champion trainer closed out 2015 with a world record 33 Grade One victories, so it would be in keeping with his remarkable prowess if he were to claim the first one of 2016 at Sandown.
Yorkhill's claims are pretty obvious under Ruby Walsh. A casualty on his point-to-point debut just over a year ago, he made amends next time and hasn't been beaten in three outings on the track since then.
A dual bumper winner, the Presenting gelding gradually pulled clear of Road To Respect on his Punchestown hurdle bow, form that was franked somewhat when the third, Mall Dini, dotted up next time.
Walsh seemed genuinely taken by the display, which saw Yorkhill race keenly early on, indicating that he has no shortage of early pace. He knuckled down and found plenty for pressure, so he's a fine prospect.
Still, it is debatable whether he deserves to be as short as he is for this £40,000 two-miler. Taking on Mullins and Walsh short-priced favourites in marquee events is a policy that doubtless won't last long, but the value lies elsewhere in this race.
Agrapart and Welsh Shadow have both looked the part recently and are entitled to respect in this. However, the one that appeals most at the respective odds is O O Seven, whose in-form handler Nicky Henderson has won this four times in the last five years.
A facile Huntingdon bumper winner in December 2014, this son of Flemensfirth was well held in the Champion Bumper. He didn't run again until November, when he skated up on his first try at hurdling on his return to Huntingdon, beating the re-opposing subsequent winner Cyrius Moriviere by 13 lengths.
O O Seven then stepped into novice company here at Sandown, showing a decisive turn of foot to quicken clear of Premier Bond on soft ground, before idling in front. It was a visually impressive turn and again, the runner-up has since won, so the form reads well.
On the back of those displays, you'd have to conclude that O O Seven has matured considerably. It's anyone's guess where Andrew Tinkler's mount's progress will level out, but he is a fine-looking individual that is underestimated here at odds of up to 10/3.
Mullins and Walsh do get the nod to take the mares' Listed race with Gitane Du Berlais.
Petit Parisienne also represents Mullins in this, but Gitane Du Berlais is the one to keep on side.
A Grade One winner at the Esher track a year ago, Gitane Du Berlais got sucked into a protracted duel with Emily Gray at Carlisle. She didn't lose much in defeat, but being taken on from the off ultimately took its toll. If Walsh can avoid getting involved in such a set-to here, then Gitane Du Berlais has the quality to bounce back.
Walsh and James Nash team up for Your Busy and Cardinal Palace. Of the two, Your Busy might have more going for it in the £100,000 veterans' chase.
The game 2014 Kerry National winner relishes a decent slog and has twice run admirably in defeat recently.