Alpha to lead way in Thurles feature
The enigmatic Alpha Des Obeaux is presented with the ideal opportunity to get back on the winning trail in today's Boomerang Animal Bedding And Horse & Country Store Chase at Thurles.
Formerly a high-class hurdler and chaser for Mouse Morris, the Gigginstown-owned eight-year-old joined Gordon Elliott earlier this year and made a promising debut for his new trainer when fifth in the Munster National at Limerick under a big weight.
With that run under his belt, the eight-year-old was expected to put up a strong defence of his crown in last week's Clonmel Oil Chase and although he came up a little short behind the progressive Kemboy, he ran admirably to finish second.
Davy Russell's mount faces just two rivals as he's back here just a week later in this Listed contest and while the returning Valseur Lido is well treated by the race conditions, the fitness advantage of Alpha Des Obeaux should see him come out on top - provided this race does not come too soon.
Russell will have high hopes of completing a double for Elliott aboard Cold Shoulder in the Hill Fabrication Handicap Hurdle. This four-year-old has been in rude health of late and despite shouldering top weight of 11-10 he's taken to complete his hat-trick at the main expense of Authorative.
Elliott will also be fancied to land the spoils in the bumper with Gigginstown's Osmotic which can make a winning debut by edging out the Willie Mullins-trained Westport Lady. Banker of the day comes in the opening mares' chase with Jessica Harrington's Forge Meadow likely to improve on last month's seasonal debut.
Meanwhile, owner Graham Wylie is hoping Bellshill can become a serious contender for the Cheltenham Gold Cup. The eight-year-old, trained by Willie Mullins, signed off in the spring with victory in the Punchestown Gold Cup and is set to return to action next month, possibly in the John Durkan Memorial Chase back on that course.
He had looked like winning the Irish Grand National on his penultimate start, only to put the brakes on approaching the final fence, causing some interference for which he was relegated from fourth place to fifth.
"I'm hoping he's going to be good enough to be there for the Gold Cup this season. He comes out next month, all being well," Wylie told At The Races.
"He's probably my best horse right now. I've had good feedback from Ruby (Walsh) and Willie about how he's getting on.
"He's got a high cruising speed. It was such a shame what happened in the Irish National. He was there to win it and something took his eye off the ball at the last fence and he made a mess of it. But he made up for it next time at Punchestown. Willie is training him for the Gold Cup, so hopefully we'll get him there in one piece."