'Stone' should be hard to beat for Barry
Shay Barry's switch from Aidan O'Brien's original yard in Owning to the palatial setting of the Curraghmore estate near Portlaw seems unlikely to stall his fledgling career.
The former jump jockey is enjoying a fantastic season, with a running tally of 11 winners nearly four times last season's total of three.
Barry has yet to saddle a winner since the turn of the year, but he gets the nod to do so in today's opening maiden hurdle at Clonmel with Thumb Stone Blues.
Willie Mullins introduces Fire In Soul for Gigginstown Stud here. As a €200,000 acquisition by Robin Des Champs, he could be capable of anything, but the decision to start him off over flights at this relatively late stage in the season might suggest that he isn't overly precocious.
Thumb Stone Blues has a solid profile. The High Chaparral gelding won on its bumper debut at Kilbeggan in May before finishing second to Fugi Mountain at Galway, where he returned in September to fill the same spot behind Rosshaven Lady.
He then had a mid-term break, reappearing at Naas last month to be third behind Edwulf and Haymount on his first start over flights.
That was a fine turn from Thumb Stone Blues. If he can build on it now under Brian O'Connell, he should be good enough to justify nap billing and get Barry off the mark for 2016. The only other race that the champion trainer contests is the featured Surehaul Mercedes-Benz Novices' Hurdle, a €37,500 affair that he has won for the past three years and four times in the past five.
He relies on Arkwrisht and Stone Hard here, neither of which have been particularly convincing.
Dermot Weld's Don't Tell No One is a fascinating prospect following his Fairyhouse triumph after a long lay-off, while Mags Mullins' Last Encounter was second to Bellshill in Grade One company at Naas last time. Gordon Elliott has both Western Star and Roman Gold engaged, and it is the last-named that is fancied to cause a minor upset under Jack Kennedy, with Bryan Cooper preferring Stone Hard.
A winner here in the autumn and again at Thurles, Roman Gold ran a blinder when dropped back to two miles at Punchestown in December. On that occasion, he was third to the pretty smart A Great View, while the runner-up Attribution has since been second to Min in graded company.
Roman Gold was beaten just eight lengths, which was a fine effort given that he looks a bona fide stayer. Back over two miles and six furlongs here, then, he should be thereabouts if he copes with the especially deep ground.
In the mares' maiden hurdle, Jessica Harrington's Billy's Hope can atone for a near miss at Leopardstown, while Sandra Hughes' Bright New Dawn should justify likely short odds under Cooper in the Micro Dog ID Chase.
He and Rubi Light are both rated 148 and have been running well, but Bright New Dawn receives eight pounds here. It will be disappointing if he can't make that pay.