Rubi Light ready to take centre stage
Robbie Hennessy's training career has taken a slightly more mundane direction since Sublimity delivered him a Grade One for his very first winner this time three years ago, but he could return to the big stage with Rubi Light at Punchestown tomorrow.
The promising six-year-old faces six rivals in his quest for Grade One glory in the John Durkan Memorial Chase, five of which have already enjoyed success at the highest level.
Joncol and Tranquil Sea, the last two winners of the two-and-a-half-mile feature, both take their chance, with Barry Geraghty, who steered those two to their respective seasonal debut wins, opting for Tranquil Sea.
Paul Carberry fills in on Joncol for Paul Nolan and that one could pose the selection's most potent threat. A good winner of the Hennessy Gold Cup in 2010, the giant son of Bob's Return failed to fire last term, but he is a serious operator at his best, especially in slow ground on a right-handed track.
Cooldine and Kempes, representing the all-conquering Willie Mullins team, are similarly classy on their day.
In short, it is a wide-open race, though the only one of the field that could realistically be said to still have its best days ahead is Rubi Light.
Having progressed steadily throughout the last campaign, the handsome gelding enjoyed a heavy-ground stroll in the Red Mills Chase at Gowran Park in February, before finishing an admirable third on much drier going in the Ryanair Chase at Cheltenham. On his re-appearance back at the Kilkenny track, he had put away Sizing Europe on the run to the last, at which point he crashed out under Davy Russell.
Not matter which way you cut it, Rubi Light turned in a serious performance that day, and Hennessy has given him all the time that he required to come right again.
With conditions in his favour and regular rider Andrew Lynch back up top, the French-bred can further enhance both his and his trainer's reputations now.
The pick of the card's remaining races is the novice hurdle, a two-mile Listed heat that numbers just five runners. Nonetheless, it is an intriguing contest.
Lord Windermere, Ballysteen and Casa Jove all bring winning form to the table, though Dylan Ross could be the punters' favourite, having found only Il Fenomeno too strong in a Grade Two at Navan.
Given that Il Fenomeno did little to enhance that particular piece of form in the Royal Bond, Ballysteen may be worth a look.
A bumper winner at Cork for Michael Hourigan in October, the Gigginstown Stud-owned five-year-old went on to record a comfortable maiden hurdle triumph at the same track a month later.
If he can build on that again, he could take a bit of stopping.
In the opening maiden hurdle, Wandering Aengus ought to show up well. On its sole start in a bumper, Patrick Prendergast's gelding denied the subsequent Cheltenham bumper winner Cheltenian here just over a year ago, so he is a fair jumping prospect.
The day's nap selection is Tellherimnothere in the two-mile handicap hurdle at Cork.
With 24 runners, this won't be easily won, but John Joe Walsh's mare has run with promise in two maiden hurdles this term -- including a third to Mount Benbulben -- so a first-time mark of 104 could prove favourable.
Golden Silver can complete a hat-trick of wins in a poor Grade Two Hilly Way Chase, while Farrells Fancy gets the nod in what is a decent staying novice hurdle just before.
Having given Punchestown a swerve, Davy Russell is the man to follow in general, with Trifolium, Knockfierna and Dbanks all fancied for the local rider.