Walsh can reel in rivals with double
Better ground than the jumpers were obliged to endure at Fairyhouse yesterday should be available at Thurles today when Ruby Walsh resumes on the home front after another profitable trip to Britain.
The reigning champion, who has ground to make up on Paul Carberry and Andrew McNamara after a lengthy spell on the sidelines, can begin to make inroads in earnest in association with fellow title-holder Willie Mullins as the season gathers impetus.
This formidable alliance may, indeed, start the ball rolling with a double today as smart hurdler Hampshire Express and Up Ou That, which performed with plenty of credit in bumpers earlier this year, appear for the first time since the Punchestown Festival.
Walsh was successful aboard Hampshire Express in a Downpatrick maiden hurdle last March on similarly easy ground and the partnership might manage a repeat now in the opening Beginners Chase, despite the clear-cut claim of Bob Lingo.
A close third to Noble Prince at Punchestown last week, Bob Lingo was runner-up to Whatuthink in this event a year ago and, although having the edge experience-wise over Walsh's mount, has not always appeared to be the strongest of finishers.
A runaway Fairyhouse bumper victor in heavy going last January, the Alderbrook gelding Up Ou That wasn't disgraced subsequently at the Cheltenham and Punchestown festivals and should relish every yard of the two-and-a-quarter-mile Cashel Maiden Hurdle.
In between, the five-runner Thurles Chase could provide Jim Dreaper's former Welsh Grand National and Guinness Gold Cup hero Notre Pere with an ideal opportunity to belatedly get back on the winning trail after a series of disappointments last term.
Ruby Walsh teams up with Oliver McKiernan's Follow The Plan, which was seventh to Planet Of Sound at Punchestown last April in the Grade One contest in which Notre Pere and Rare Bob failed to complete the course, and they could give Andrew Lynch's mount most to do.
If things go according to plan this afternoon for Dreaper's French-bred stable star, there's every chance that the nine-year-old could be lining up for the Hennessy Gold Cup at Newbury later this month against Kauto Star or Denman.