Russell to go one better in 'Bobbyjo' with Mala Beach
Davy Russell doesn't have the same depth of ammunition to go to war with these days but he is riding as well as ever and his Bobbyjo Chase mount Mala Beach is napped to gain an overdue win at Fairyhouse.
A feature of this season has been the old firm of Russell and Charles Byrnes combining to deliver a number of serious touches, the most recent being the straightforward victory of newcomer Alto Esqua at Clonmel on Thursday.
Continuing a link forged during Russell's time as retained jockey to Gigginstown Stud, whose colours he still frequently sports, Gordon Elliott has also emerged as one of the Co Cork native's biggest fans.
They nearly landed a gamble with Chris Jones' Mala Beach in the Thyestes, and they are tipped to make amends in today's At The Races-sponsored Grade Two.
Willie and Patrick Mullins combine for the 2014 winner of the €45,000 event, On His Own, while Ruby Walsh partners Boston Bob, with Paul Townend on Turban.
Sandra Hughes's Irish Grand National victor Thunder And Roses returns to the scene of his finest hour, and Ross O'Sullivan's improving mare, Baie Des Iles, is also worthy of respect.
Still, if Mala Beach runs to his best, he should win this. Prior to finishing second to My Murphy at Gowran Park, he filled the same spot behind the progressive Royal Regatta at Ascot.
The son of Beneficial will be in his element here over three miles in testing ground. Mala Beach has had just six starts over fences, so he has tremendous scope to progress further and score for a first time since December 2014.
Russell might also take the beginners' chase aboard Paul Nolan's Fine Theatre.
A half-brother to the stable's Irish Gold Cup hero Joncol, Fine Theatre is bred for this job. A year ago, he won on his hurdle debut at the Co Meath venue, and he ran his best race in four outings since then when fourth off a mark of 122 at Punchestown last month.
Fine Theatre has bundles of room to improve now that he switches to the bigger obstacles, so he gets the nod to collect. Mullins and Walsh, represented by Vedettariat, will doubtless have a big say with their two earlier imports.
Voix Du Reve tackles the Grade Three Finning Fair Hurdle having dotted up on his last two outings in France before the turn of the year, while Townshend might be well-treated off a mark of 131 in the two-and-a-half-mile handicap hurdle.
With the likes of Squouateur, Golan Lodge and Coolaghknock Glebe among 13 runners in this, it is a competitive affair. Still, having eschewed the novice route, Mullins clearly believes that Townshend has a favourable mark.
Second on its hurdle bow in April, he ran out a ready winner at Auteuil in June, so he should have a lot more to give yet. Tomorrow's Naas card is another decent spread. Russell again has some fine bookings and also warrants the nap vote there in the shape of Gigginstown's Hughes-trained Wrath Of Titans.
The seven-year-old novice contests a decent renewal of the €50,000 Nas Na Riogh Handicap Chase, having run really well for a long way when last of four behind No More Heroes in a Leopardstown Grade One.
Wrath Of Titans is dropping in class and trip now. He didn't seem to get home over three miles last time, and his last two wins were over this intermediate trip. As such, he is potentially favourably treated off 128.
Henry de Bromhead's Hurry Henry could cause a minor upset in the Grade Two novices' hurdle. This is a fantastic little race, but Hurry Henry won a decent maiden last time and should not be underestimated.
De Bromhead and Andrew Lynch might also foil English raider Simply Ned in the Grade Two chase. Days Hotel has won the €47,500 contest twice before, and he has been running well enough of late to suggest that he should go very close again.