Tarla can seal Townend double and spoil return of Rebel Fitz
MICK WINTERS has again nominated today's conditions hurdle on Cork's student race day for Rebel Fitz's spring return, but conditions have again turned in favour of Tarla.
Willie Mullins' soft ground-loving mare took advantage of her seven-pound allowance in similar circumstances 12 months ago when the ground was heavy – as it is now.
As was the case then, Rebel Fitz is running for a first time since October, his winning sequence undone at Cheltenham last time.
Maybe he will be able to balance the books this time, but Tarla remains a formidable opponent. A tired fourth on her return behind Avondhu Lady at Naas in February, she should strip the fitter here.
Moreover, Tarla's strike rate of 7-8 in completed starts going right-handed contrasts with her ratio of 0-2 the other way round, which means today's venue ought to bring out the best in her. She is a classy mare – albeit with a slightly soft centre – that merits the nap vote in this six-runner affair.
Paul Townend will steer on the French-bred, and the 2011 champion should also collect on his first ride back since injuring his shoulder on Cheltenham Gold Cup day when he takes the reins on Shamsikhan in the CIT Horse Racing Society Maiden Hurdle.
Granted, Shamsikhan disappointed slightly when fourth to Is Love Alive at Leopardstown on his first start since September.
It may be that he isn't an out-and-out soft-ground horse, but he warrants a second chance in this modest grade as he should improve for the run.
In the UCC Horse Racing Society Handicap Hurdle, Davy Russell gets the nod to score on Mary Hallahan's consistent Malt Gem, a winner in identical conditions here at Easter last year.
John Kiely's newcomer Starry Knight and Mullins' Killer Crow – third to Windsor Park at Leopardstown in January – are among those to consider in what looks a decent bumper.
Preferred, though, is Celtic Silver. Edward O'Grady's grey son of Shirocco was seventh to Shaneshill on his Naas bow.
With Joshua Lane, Wounded Warrior, Riviera Sun, Hairy O'Malley and Shantou Ed the other five that finished in front of him, that is surely the best bumper that has been run in Ireland so far this season, so he can enhance that impression under Jane Mangan now.