Sir Frederick and Bahrain Storm, respective former winners of the Galway Plate and Hurdle, go head to head in the Irish Open Chase when Killarney's four-day July Festival gets under way this evening.
On his first appearance since 2008, Sir Frederick is out to justify a speculative entry in this year's Plate on July 27 by showing that some of his old sparkle remains at 11 years of age. With just four other runners vying for the €12,075 first prize, Liam Burke could hardly have found Shay Barry's mount a more suitable starting point.
Bahrain Storm, which got off the mark over fences at Tipperary in May, is also in line for a tilt at the featured chase in Ballybrit. Pat Flynn's charge finished second in the 2010 Galway Hurdle, 12 months after his moment of glory, so a win tonight could see him return to his favourite venue as a serious contender in two weeks' time.
As the most unexposed chaser in the field and with the weights and two-mile trip in his favour, the blinkered eight-year-old ought to be hard to beat under David Casey. While dual Kerry National winner Ponmeoath is unlikely to be suited by the minimum distance, the two other runners, Schelm and Echo Bob, won't mind it.
Neither, though, is expected to have Bahrain Storm's class.
In the Bourn Vincent Memorial Park Maiden Hurdle that follows, Gordon Elliott's Atlanta Falcon sets the standard on recent form. The likes of Seader, Ballyhoura, Serein and Sizing Symphony all come here on the back of various respectable placed efforts, but Atlanta Falcon could be a notch above his 17 opponents.
Successful in two point-to-points, he ran out a facile winner of a pair of bumpers at Perth and Hexham last month. Although he faces a tougher test in tonight's two-and-a-half-miler, the Winged Love gelding is clearly at the top of his game.
Of the four Flat races that get proceedings under way at the picturesque Kerry track, the Killarney Avenue/Munster Joinery Handicap is the best quality heat. Eight useful three-year-olds will line out in this over 11 furlongs, with Aidan O'Brien's smart Tipperary victor Long Live The King sure to be popular under Colm O'Donoghue.
However, fancied to have his measure is Vastonea. The Kevin Prendergast-trained colt was triumphant on his racecourse debut at Leopardstown in October, and ran encouragingly when fourth in a competitive handicap on his reappearance at The Curragh on Derby weekend. If he can progress from that, he should go close.
Earlier, The Pott Reidy gets the nod in the Derrinstown Apprentices' Handicap. Sixth at Ballinrobe on his first start of the season in June, Danny Mullins' mount could run well at a decent price if he strips fitter now.