Speckled Wood set to confirm early promise
Speckled Wood, the first offspring of JP McManus' former top-class race mare Like-A-Butterfly that suffered a fatal bout of colic last week, is fancied to go some way to compensate for that loss on Thurles' all-hurdle spread this afternoon.
Like her dam, Speckled Wood is trained by Christy Roche and the daughter of the 2002 Epsom Derby hero High Chaparral has shown plenty of promise to be placed on her only two previous career starts at the Tipperary venue.
On the latest of those, just before Christmas, she was no match for Willie Mullins' more experienced French import Unika La Reconce, but she still finished six lengths clear of the rest.
Of the 18 runners in today's opening mares' maiden hurdle, Speckled Wood's overall profile appeals as by far the most progressive, so she is put forward as nap material under Alan Crowe.
Ma Belle Amie and New River are probably the pick of the remainder, though neither looks quite as precocious as the selection.
For a change, champion trainer Willie Mullins doesn't look to have a runner with Cheltenham Festival credentials on the card, which must survive an 8.0am track inspection.
Are Ya Right Chief and Rolly Baby return from lay-offs for him in the later maiden hurdles, with the two-miler that Rolly Baby contests, the better race.
Sword Of Honour, Sinntani, Boondooma, Enchanted Forest, Jubilee Year and Time Please all have chances in this, but Follow The Sign gets the nod to prevail for Oliver McKiernan and Robbie Colgan.
Placed in its sole point-to-point last spring, the handsome son of Old Vic kept on encouragingly to be third on his Punchestown hurdle bow behind Way Up In The Air last month.
In the two-mile handicap hurdle, Tallow handler Arthur Goulding's booking of superb five-pound claimer Mark Enright on previous course winner The Boys Dont Know could prove key, while Michael Butler is another conditional rider that could get amongst the winners courtesy of Davy From Milan.
The Eoin Doyle-trained point-to-point winner found only The Paparrazi Kid too strong on his track debut at Limerick last month, and he has the potential to foil the unreliable Are Ya Right Chief now that he steps up in trip for the two-mile-six-furlong maiden hurdle.