Very wood to take Clonmel prize
Last week's postponed Clonmel spread looks set to go ahead with a cracking edition of the Surehaul Mercedes-Benz Novice Hurdle as its feature this afternoon.
Top of the page in the six-runner Grade Three is Michael Hourigan's The Job Is Right, a smart winner at this level at Cork before finishing second to the highly regarded Faugheen at Limerick after Christmas.
Hourigan has designs on the four-mile chase at Cheltenham for his six-year-old, which has yet to run over fences.
Double Irish receives 6lb from The Job Is Right and is likely to end up in one of the two longer novice hurdles at next month's Festival.
Gordon Elliott's Barry Connell-owned charge destroyed Champagne James and Quickpic Vic at Leopardstown in December, form that obviously reads especially well now.
The presence of Urano, Railway Zira, Seskinane and The Westener Boy adds further depth to this €31,500 contest, but the one that appeals most is Very Wood, which receives weight from all bar the mare, Railway Zira.
Having won a point-to-point before beating the exciting duo Value At Risk and Western Boy in a Punchestown bumper for Elliott last spring, the French-bred six-year-old joined Noel Meade.
Very Wood duly made a smooth hurdle bow in deep ground at Galway in October and has held his own in decent company since, latterly staying on over two-and-a-half miles when third to Briar Hill and Apache Jack at Naas.
Over an extra quarter of a mile here, Bryan Cooper's mount warrants the nap vote to fulfil some of his potential.
JP McManus' Conor O'Dwyer-trained Blow The Doors Off finished second to Very Wood at Galway in the autumn. He has been slow to progress since, but he and Mark Walsh ought to take some stopping in what is a middling maiden hurdle today.
Willie Mullins and Ruby Walsh can plunder the mares' hurdle with McManus' Upsie, while Turban is fancied for the all-conquering duo in the conditions chase.
Turban seemed to have matured considerably when sluicing up in the Dan Moore Chase, so he should have too much for his three rivals, though it will be interesting to see how Aupcharlie fares on its first start for Henry de Bromhead since leaving Mullins.