Russell's title hopes bolstered by strong Kilbeggan hand
Championship rivals Davy Russell and Paul Townend continue the search for winners at Kilbeggan this evening.
The first of the Westmeath venue's eight summer meetings starts at 5.50, and the only complaint that either of the Cork-born riders will have is that it features just six races, one of which is a bumper. Russell, who is five behind Townend as both men duel for a first title, looks to have the stronger book of rides today.
In the night's most valuable contest, the €8,280 Irish Stallion Farms EBF Mares' Beginners' Chase, the Youghal native partners Sunwake for Thomas Cleary. A 100-plus rated hurdler, Sunwake made its debut for Cleary at Clonmel three weeks ago, catching the eye when third on her first attempt at fences.
If she can build on that, she should win. Townend rides Beg La Eile for Roger McGrath here, and it may be significant that the Lahib mare was a good second when she last ran on the fast ground she will encounter today at Fairyhouse in October.
Russell could also take the opening two maiden hurdles. He partners Longliner in the first for Paul Nolan, while he steers Henry de Bromhead's Dr Anubis in the second.
Previously a winner on the Flat for Michael Stoute, Longliner has progressed well in three hurdling starts. At Cork last weekend, he kept on well to be sixth over two miles, so the three-furlong step up in trip on this ground could see him score now.
De Bromhead's stoutly bred Dr Anubis, third at Clonmel recently, may also benefit for the same jump in distance. Inter Mutanda and Akadyr, Russell and Townend's respective mounts in the Greville Arms Hotel Handicap Hurdle, both have chances, but preference in this is for the Tramore chase winner Bulls And Mortar.
Eoghan O'Grady's nine-year-old, which faces 15 rivals, is 11lbs higher over flights. Nonetheless, he is in form and relishes these conditions.
On the evening's Flat card at Dundalk, Paul Cashman is fancied to collect with his only runner, Extra Steps.
A gallant runner-up over six furlongs at the track a fortnight ago, Extra Steps may be better suited by seven furlongs in the i105-107FM Handicap.
Earlier, Charles O'Brien and Johnny Murtagh will be hard to beat with Laughing, so unlucky when short-headed on her racecourse debut the same night, in the three-year-old fillies' maiden. O'Brien could also take the 10-furlong maiden with Hired Hand.
A rare JP McManus-owned Flat runner, the High Chaparral gelding flashed home in second at Limerick last time. It would be no surprise to see him go one better now.