Val De Ferbet's staying power to get McNamara off the mark
Six years after Bluesea Cracker carried Andrew McNamara to victory for one of the highlights of his riding career in the Irish Grand National, the Limerick native can plunder the first win of his new vocation at Thurles.
McNamara, now based in Co Westmeath where he rents stables from Dot Love - who won the 2013 Easter Monday feature with Liberty Counsel - will saddle Stay With It in the opening beginners' chase.
He has a chance in what is a weak enough contest, but it is Val De Ferbet that is fancied to secure a landmark success for the young handler in the three-mile conditions hurdle.
A Grade Two winner over fences at Limerick for Willie Mullins a year ago, Val De Ferbet made its debut for its new stable at Cork last week. The trip on that occasion was two-and-a-half miles, and he simply looked one-paced when second to Tennis Cap, with the pair drawing a long way clear of their other two rivals.
All told, it constituted a perfectly respectable start, and the step up to three miles here is just what Val De Ferbet requires, as he is basically an out-and-out stayer.
If Robbie Power's mount improves for the run and doesn't find this coming too soon, then he is the one to beat, as he boasts the highest official rating in the five-runner affair.
Jarlath Fahey's Jennies Jewel may be the selection's chief danger. Also a graded winner over fences, she has a touch of quality and receives weight.
In the preceding Martinstown Opportunity Maiden Hurdle, Stephen Mahon is trusted to deliver the day's nap vote with Champagne Harmony.
This isn't a race that boasts any real depth, and Mahon's son of Stowaway had the class to win two winter bumpers.
He flopped in Listed company when last seen at Navan in December, but he is better than that.
If Champagne Harmony can translate his previous form on this first start over flights for Ger Fox, he will take some stopping.
The Gold Cup heroes Gordon Elliott, Bryan Cooper and Michael O'Leary might take the curtain-raiser with Chatham House Rule. Twice a winner in six hurdling starts, this Authorized gelding was clear when unseating four-out on his Punchestown fencing bow, before recovering to finish second to Domesday Book at Limerick over Christmas, when he had two subsequent winners behind.