Ballycasey can smash up Red Mills rivals for Walsh
Ruby Walsh has forfeited the chance to ride in today's Newbury feature in favour of the Red Mills card at Gowran Park, and that is a decision that might reap a reward on Ballycasey.
Thurles' spread on Thursday was devalued by a raft of uncompetitive races and long odds-on favourites.
The situation isn't quite as bad over the weekend, but Gowran's card and tomorrow's Boyne Hurdle programme at Navan don't do an awful lot to refute the theory that the wider domestic jump racing scene is some way off thriving right now.
Of the five graded races worth an average of €26,000 across the two cards, only one, tomorrow's Ten Up Novices' Chase, has attracted more than five runners.
Unfortunately, though not surprisingly, the trial of re-opening certain races that fail to attract five or more runners for 15 minutes after declaration time has effectively been snubbed by trainers and already looks stillborn.
That all said, the two Red Mills centrepieces today do possess elements of intrigue despite the poor turnouts. In the Grade Two chase, Walsh is expected to collect on Willie Mullins' Rich Ricci-owned grey, but it is no foregone conclusion.
Henry De Bromhead's Smashing is on a hat-trick and will be ideally suited by two-and-a-half-miles in deep ground, while Pat Fahy's Morning Assembly ran encouragingly after a long lay-off last time.
Smashing may be best equipped to put it up to Ballycasey, but he is 5lb wrong at the weights with him. That won't be easy to overcome.
On its reappearance in the Goffs Thyestes Chase, Ballycasey travelled and jumped sweetly until tiring from two-out. In truth, three miles stretches his stamina, so it was a fine turn in the circumstances. If he comes on any bit for the outing, back over his optimum trip, this is a race that he should be winning.
Walsh and Mullins combine for Sempre Medici in the equivalent hurdle. In all probability, the tidy Naas winner will be long odds-on to collect, but Sizing Tennessee is fancied to cause an upset for De Bromhead and Davy Russell.
Sempre Medici has a massive engine, but his hurdling isn't that fluent. In contrast, Sizing Tennessee is a bold jumper that saw off the subsequent winner Bright New Dawn from the front at Navan last time.
He has a bright future, and could put Sempre Medici's jumping under pressure here. As an unexposed type with scope to keep developing, he appeals as nap material.
Young Finnegan ought to have little trouble plundering a dire beginners' chase for Robert Tyner and Philip Enright, while Walsh might also take the handicap chase on Just Get Cracking, trained by Tyner's west Cork neighbour James Dullea.
At Navan, a clear round ought to suffice for Ttebbob in the Flyingbolt Novices' Chase. Mullins' Sambremont and Tell Us More are Jessica Harrington's charge's only rivals.
Both are decent animals in their own right, but the ratings suggest that Ttebbob will have the class to dispense with them over this two-mile trip if he is anywhere close to his best.
The classy stayer Black Hercules should prevail in the Ten Up Novices' Chase for Mullins and Walsh, while Prince Of Scars warrants the nap vote in the Ladbrokes Boyne Hurdle.
Michael O'Leary's retained rider Bryan Cooper prefers the returning 2015 winner Dedigout in this, but Gordon Elliott's Prince Of Scars is on a pretty steep upward curve, so he can reaffirm as much under former Gigginstown No 1 Russell.