Speckled Wood can get followers in festive mood
Speckled Wood could be the most exciting prospect on duty at Thurles tomorrow.
JP McManus' Christy Roche-trained four-year-old, the first produce of the same partnership's brilliant race-mare Like-A-Butterfly to run, tackles the 18-runner Gift Horse Gallery Mares' Maiden Hurdle.
With Willie Mullins' latest French recruit Unika La Reconce among the opposition, this is unlikely to be easily won, but Speckled Wood was a real eye-catcher on her debut here last month.
On that occasion, she travelled and jumped sweetly before running a touch green under sympathetic handling in the closing stages, eventually finishing a decent third behind the useful pair Ally Cascade and Urano.
If Alan Crowe's mount progresses from that now, they might all have to go some way to topple her.
The McManus-Roche combination is napped to take the conditional jockeys' chase that the Limerick owner sponsors via his Martinstown Stud banner.
Sword Fish is the horse in question after four modest outings in beginners' events, and the booking of talented claimer Jody McGarvey is a definite bonus in a contest like this.
Over flights, Sword Fish earned a mark of 116 after finishing second to Jetson off 113 at Leopardstown a year ago, having won off 108 at Listowel previously. In that context, a chase rating of 106, which drops to 102 if you factor in McGarvey's 4lb allowance, looks favourable for a horse that has scope to improve.
In the day's most valuable race, a €27,500 Listed Hurdle, the champion trainer's Midnight Game is fancied to spark a double for Davy Russell, with fellow Gigginstown Stud-owned War Correspondent favoured in the two-mile-six-furlong maiden hurdle.
A half-brother to the 2006 Gold Cup hero War Of Attrition, the son of Westerner will be suited by this step up in distance.
Thats The Dream, just denied under Philip Enright at Cork on its handicap bow earlier in the month, might go one better in the handicap hurdle that follows over the same journey.
A blunder two-out cost Robert Tyner's point-to-point winner over two and a half miles last time, and this slightly longer trip should be to his advantage.