Sonny B and Page Turner can double up for Walsh
John Joe Walsh's strike-rate at Limerick over the past two days has been out of sync with his usual potent record at the Munster venue, but he has live chances of redressing the balance today with Sonny B and Page Turner.
The Doneraile, Co Cork-based handler has saddled 16 winners from 126 runners there over the past five years, yet just one of his 10 starters so far this week made the frame and 50pc of them pulled up.
However, most of those were rank outsiders, something you couldn't describe Sonny B as in the Parkway Shopping Centre Maiden Hurdle.
In his last three outings, Brian O'Connell's mount filled the runner-up spot in a point-to-point, a bumper and a maiden hurdle, latterly getting chinned by Aerlite Supreme at Galway on October 27. On Sonny B's first run since April, that was no mean feat, so he should go close here if he makes average improvement for the outing.
Flaming Dawn and Golden Plan are the dangers. Flaming Dawn was a wide-margin bumper winner at Tramore, but he beat little that day, while Golden Plan is another Tramore bumper winner that has already been beaten in six hurdle races this year.
Page Turner faces an even more formidable task in the Irish Independent-sponsored beginners' chase. Willie Mullins' Abbey Lane won the valuable Boylesports.com Handicap Hurdle at Leopardstown in January, while the Noel Meade-trained Il Fenomeno is a highly regarded horse that hasn't quite lived up to expectations.
Page Turner hasn't as precocious a profile, but he won his maiden hurdle here in similarly deep ground in 2012.
More importantly, he showed real promise on his first two chasing starts last term, finishing second to Moon Dice and Savello, respectively. If he enjoys some luck in running on his first start since May, he could go very close.
Walsh's fellow Cork-based handler Robert Tyner might take the veterans' chase with the Philip Enright-ridden Tullintain, while the €28,500 Liberty Insurance Hurdle has the makings of a cracking centrepiece.
The Job Is Right has serious claims after plundering a fine Cork Grade Three success for Michael Hourigan, with Azorian and Lots Of Memories other smart individuals that cannot be discounted.
Still, it's hard to get away from Mullins' Faugheen. Emmet Mullins' classy mount is unbeaten in a 'point', a bumper and two hurdles, so he is one to keep on side for now.
Tomorrow's concluding leg of the four-day festival throws up another really decent programme. JP McManus' prolific colours could be to the fore, with his Blow The Doors Off, Sword Fish and Byerley Babe all fancied for different stables.
Gigginstown's Mouse Morris-trained Easter Hunt is a threat in the opening maiden hurdle, but Blow The Doors Off is trusted to show his true colours for Conor O'Dwyer. A decent bumper horse that chased home Very Wood on his hurdle bow at Galway, Alan Crowe's mount can be forgiven a disappointing turn at Cork last time.
Tyner's soft ground-loving Byerley Babe has an obvious chance under Enright in the mares' beginners' chase, and Sword Fish can take advantage of a lenient mark in the three-mile handicap hurdle. Christy Roche's seven-year-old ran away with the Cork Grand National off the same rating of 109 in November.
In 2011, he finished second to Jetson in the Pertemps Qualifier at Leopardstown off 113 and was rated 116 at his best over flights. If he can translate his chasing form to the smaller obstacles now that he has dropped in the ratings, he should win.