Sizing Granite ready to show he's made of stern stuff
Henry De Bromhead can deliver the day's nap vote with Sizing Granite, the Waterford handler's sole runner on the Leopardstown card.
A seven-year-old son of Milan, Jonathan Burke's mount faces just three rivals in the novices' chase. Rocky Wednesday, Dysios and One Cool Shabra all have bits and pieces to recommend them, but Sizing Granite is the one that sets the standard.
Over the course of little more than a year, he has proved really progressive, getting off the mark over flights at Gowran Park in March 2014. He has run in three chases this term, beating the dual Grade One hurdle winner Lieutenant Colonel at Naas before running flat en route to unseating three-out in a Punchestown Grade Two.
On Sizing Granite's latest outing, he got back to winning ways with another decisive Naas victory over Fine Rightly and Blood Cotil, both of which have franked the form by scoring since. That confirmed his potential, so De Bromhead will be disappointed if his charge doesn't prove up to conceding weight to three inferior rivals now.
The most valuable purse on the programme is the €50,000 Mercury Engineering Handicap Chase, which sees 10 pretty exposed types do battle.
Old stagers Colbert Station and Fosters Cross couldn't be discounted, but this might be a decent opportunity for Fever Pitch to land a decent pot.
Arthur Moore's JP McManus-owned nine-year-old ran a nice race for a long way when only giving best before the final fence when sixth behind the smart Foxrock over course and distance last month. Prior to that, he had won nicely at Clonmel and been second to Mount Colah at Thurles, so his form has been solid this season. If Fever Pitch runs to a similar level under David Casey now, he ought to be thereabouts again.
In the €24,000 handicap hurdle, McManus' Princely Conn is the one to keep on side. This is a cracking affair comprising 14 in-form individuals, including Michael O'Hare's Mike McCann and Anthony McCann's Shabra's Bertolini, both recent winners.
Tony Mullins' Barry Connell-owned Blue Hell, Charles Byrnes' Sea Light and Tony Martin's Cassells Rock all have live claims, but Princely Conn's profile is the most eye-catching.
In three hurdle starts, the Tom Mullins-trained six-year-old has won its maiden and finished third to the subsequent Grade One winner Mckinley in a Navan Grade Three, before filling the same spot in the Grade One Royal Bond Novices' Hurdle behind Nichols Canyon. Given that Nichols Canyon has since scored again at the highest level, it's hard to ignore Princely Conn's claims.
Mark Walsh, who suffered a cruel blow to his jockeys' title aspirations by fracturing his arm on Thursday, has ridden Princely Conn in each of his hurdle outings. However, Mullins' excellent son David is a fine deputy, and he takes a valuable five pounds off, having won a bumper on the horse.
McManus' Noel Meade-trained Heck Thomas has a real life in the maiden hurdle, but Liz Doyle's Robin Des People is just preferred after a likeable turn in fourth at Punchestown.