Top-weight Pittoni can make amends in finale
A year on from his controversial defeat in the Listowel Races Supporters Club Slan Abhaile Race, Pittoni can make amends under Derek O'Connor in the festival finale at the Kerry venue this afternoon.
Having come from a long way back to be fourth in 2010, Pittoni was subsequently banned from racing for 42 days, while his trainer Charles Byrnes received a €2,000 fine for schooling in public. He would subsequently prove a massive disappointment in the November Handicap, but has returned in excellent shape this year.
In February, he ran out a comfortable winner over hurdles at Leopardstown off a mark of 131, before turning in another fine performance to deny Galileo's Choice in a decent conditions race at Tipperary. With that one unbeaten in three since, including in a Group Three, Pittoni should be up to the task of conceding weight all round here.
Of his seven rivals, Luska Lad and Elyaadi would be most feared at their best. However, both need to improve considerably on their recent efforts.
In the opening Lynch's Bakery Maiden, Cnocan Diva is also strongly fancied to oblige. This one-mile heat is a weak-looking race, and Tommy Stack's filly ran with some promise when second to Puttore at The Curragh last month.
If she improves on that now, she ought to be very hard to beat under Seamie Heffernan. The Ballydoyle jockey could secure a quick double on Acushladear in the next, the Charlie Chute Memorial Handicap.
Alpha And Omega, representing an in-form Pat Flynn, sports first-time blinkers here having been placed on his last three starts. He could yet prove a formidable rival, but when he ran into Pat Tallis' Acushladear at Tipperary in May, that one managed to concede seven pounds when coming out on top by nearly two lengths. Alpha And Omega, in the absence of a claiming rider, is eight pounds worse off with Acushladear today, so Heffernan's mount is the one to keep on side.
In the jumps races, Ruby Walsh will go close on Buy Back Bob in the MJ Carroll Maiden Hurdle, while Idarah is a quiet fancy for Cork handler Paul Cashman in the Edmond Whelan Memorial Handicap Hurdle. The hat-trick seeking Double Seven is sure to be popular in this two-and-a-half-miler, but Martin Brassil's representative may not be as effective on the prevailing heavy ground.
Idarah has won in slow going before, and his summer hurdling form, including a head defeat to Thursday's winner Princeton Plains at Killarney, stands up well. It would be no surprise to see him get involved again under Davy Russell.