Ruby could be wrong to ditch Don Poli for Lido
Ruby Walsh toyed with the notion of riding in France today but there must never have been much chance that he would miss a cracking JNWine.com Steeplechase at Down Royal.
The question is: did he make the right choice in choosing one former Willie Mullins horse over another?
Ground conditions were key to the champion rider picking the Henry de Bromhead-trained Valseur Lido when he might have ridden Don Poli, last year's Gold Cup third which is now with Gordon Elliott.
The decision saw Boylesports go 9/2 Don Poli yesterday, with Valseur Lido a best-priced 100/30.
Asked if it were a tough call, Walsh said: "I don't know really. We are here at Down Royal in November and I favoured the speedier horse over Don Poli, a dour stayer.
"At Christmas on testing ground you'd be heading Don Poli's direction but I just thought on quicker ground Valseur Lido might find it easier to keep into Silviniaco Conti.
"If Silviniaco Conti is on a proper day, both (Gigginstown) horses will have to run a career-best to beat him. Valseur Lido has run into Vautour at Cheltenham, Don Poli didn't have to do that."
In the build-up to a meeting he has long targeted, Paul Nicholls insisted that Silviniaco Conti would be as fit as a flea; the trainer recognises that the horse has bombed more often than not at Cheltenham and these are the races he likes to target, especially with The Maze venue being right-handed.
He should run a big race but Don Poli, for which Barry Geraghty is a fascinating booking, looks the answer.
Though his lack of finishing pace was exposed last year, he ran one big race after another and he won on his seasonal debut then too. Elliott is likely somewhat in the dark about what to expect, given that the horse shows little at home.
Kim Bailey brings The Last Samuri over and last year's gallant Grand National runner-up should acquit himself with credit, though likely he, Sadler's Risk, Monksland and Lord Scoundrel will all find this a bridge too far class-wise.
The Grade Two Titanic Belfast Steeplechase serves as a most alluring back-up to the big race. David Mullins was confident earlier in the week he would be riding Sub Lieutenant, which gets 4lb off Outlander and would be giving him 2lb in a handicap.
As such, he ought to have that one's measure, but Outlander is a really good horse and last year's Power's Gold Cup runner up has the assistance of Ruby now.
Nicholls has a sensational record in this - seven victories in the last eight - and he has to be feared, but Le Mercurey probably has a bit to find in a race as deep as this.
Likely the most popular winner would be the Andrew Lynch-trained Zabana, Keith Donoghue having his biggest ride in ages due to Davy Russell being suspended.
Geraghty had his own choice to make in the Billecart-Salmon Handicap Hurdle, with boss JP McManus running All The Answers, After Rain and Voices Of Spring.
After Rain could not be a confident pick, having not been seen since a tame run in the BoyleSports Hurdle last season, but there was huge support for him in the wagering that day and the chances are he has more ability than this mark if he drops the bit.
It is, however, a bit of a concern that trainer Shay Barry has not had a winner since July.
Racing begins with a Value Cabs 3-Y-O Hurdle that will likely have no bearing on the Triumph. Bobabout has an edge over course winner Dodgybingo on Listowel running and he was favourite in the race won by Lord Justice when unseating Robbie Power, who is now fit again, at Gowran.
Gigginstown has had a hell of a lot of runners lately and plenty of them are exceptional jumping prospects.
Bel Ami De Sivola, by Sprinter Sacre's sire (Network), looked a horse that could go a long way when winning at Punchestown and a clear round should suffice in a Tayto Group Maiden Hurdle notable for having a British raider, the Flat winner London Prize.
This one is trained by Noel Meade, who can take the Rainbow Communications Handicap Steeplechase with Tiger Sam. Clearly no star, he steps up in class here after winning a modest contest at Punchestown, but this is not especially strong for the grade. Due respect is given to the Gavin Cromwell-trained Sue Oscar, under excellent 7lb claimer Brien Kane.
Meade could complete a hat-trick in the bumper, in which Gigginstown's Clara Sorrento and stablemate Minella Fair both have claims.