Wee Giant to take gilt-edged chance
Testing ground for the opening afternoon of Tramore's two-day fixture will put the emphasis on stamina rather that speed around the undulating Waterford venue and those conditions may play to the strengths of both Wee Giant and Tuesday's Limerick victor Ardglen.
Willie Mullins, who has isolated the Metal Man Novice Hurdle as the post-Christmas target for his sister Sandra McCarthy's versatile Wee Giant, entrusts the mount to their nephew Emmet, who scored for the stable at Limerick yesterday aboard hotpot Sweet My Lord.
The four-year-old Giant's Causeway gelding, which has run well in Flat handicaps since his successful debut over jumps at Downpatrick in September under Ruby Walsh, gets 3lb from the older trio Foildubh, Mackeys Forge and shock Fairyhouse scorer Talk About Miltown, which has a 105 rating.
Noel Lawlor's fellow Downpatrick victor Karkari has a mark of 108 whereas Wee Giant goes into the fray as a 125 runner, with the Ryan family's Cork winner Foildubh and Mackeys Forge, which opened his jumping account at Navan, yet to be accorded an official assessment.
All of this points to Wee Giant having a gilt-edged opportunity to get back on the winning trail for the Mullins family in this conditions event, from which Norman Cassidy withdrew Asiya in favour of the opening Graun Hill Mares Maiden Hurdle.
Overdue a hurdling success after a narrow Sligo defeat and a Galway exit behind L'Ami, the daughter of Dilshaan can make up for those defeats by coping now with the long-absent Geestring, Taralga and French import Riltree, which has disappointed for Willie Mullins in successive bumpers.
A very good week for Shark Hanlon's Bagenalstown stable could get even better when Ardglen and John Cullen attempt a follow-up under a mandatory 6lb penalty to their fine Limerick win as the new top weight for the modest Pickardstown Handicap Hurdle.
The Guillamene Maiden Hurdle, which is the first leg of the Jackpot, might devolve into a match between Goban Saor for Edward O'Grady's yard and the Dessie Hughes-trained Ross Na Righ, which has been performing with equal promise in this category.
French-bred Goban Saor is rated 103 and benefits from Pat Mangan's full claim following a fair third on his seasonal return at Limerick to Pineau De Re and Zagman, suggesting he might deny this prize to Ross Na Righ, which won't mind the extra half-mile on this occasion.