Big Zeb to prove age no barrier to success
A quick glance through yesterday's results highlights the growing muscle of Michael O'Leary's Gigginstown House Stud, but this afternoon's Leopardstown programme is yet another reminder of JP McManus' incredible influence on Irish jump racing.
Of the 28 runners in the valuable Paddy Power Chase, the Limerick native is responsible for no less than nine.
O'Leary has live chances in the handicap hurdle and in both of the maidens, while in Formidableopponent he provides one of the main rivals to the exciting Sous Les Cieux in the Grade One Future Champions Novice Hurdle.
McManus' strength in depth has prompted the indomitable AP McCoy to report for duty, and the Antrim native will also be reunited with Noble Prince in the Dial-A-Bet Chase.
Having conjured a brilliant performance out of the Paul Nolan-trained gelding to land the Jewson Chase at Cheltenham in March, McCoy will be anxious to atone for their subsequent costly spill in the Powers Gold Cup at Fairyhouse.
Chief among Noble Prince's rivals are Big Zeb and Golden Silver. First and second a year ago, those two have shared the last three renewals of the Grade One two-miler, and won their respective seasonal reappearances.
It will be fascinating to see how it all plays out this time round.
12.25 Paddypower.com iPhone App Maiden Hurdle 2m
A runner-up in his two hurdling starts at Auteuil in the autumn, Sarabad is interesting here. Ruby Walsh's mount at least has the benefit of experience, as does To The Sky, an eye-catching fifth at Fairyhouse in November.
Chill is another that has already shown promise, but there is an array of potentially useful debutants. Discoteca, Hisaabaat, Raajih, Red Calima and Sportsmaster all displayed ability on the Flat, with Sportsmaster, a dual winner for Andy Oliver in the summer, one that could go close under AP McCoy.
Verdict: Sarabad is taken to get his Irish tenure off to a winning start.
12.55 Paddypower.com Android App Maiden Hurdle 2m
Fifth in a similar contest in March, The Way We Were should strip fitter on the back of his runner-up finish in a Wexford bumper last month.
Jessica Harrington's Espresso Lady, a nine-length bumper winner at Navan in March, should likewise be better for her never-dangerous fifth at Fairyhouse three weeks ago.
Aupcharlie was an admirable third in the Cheltenham bumper. He filled the same spot first time up over hurdles at Gowran Park, and may be the best long-term contender.
Verdict: Aupcharlie ought to be good enough.
1.25 Paddy Power Dial-A-Bet Chase 2m
Big Zeb, successful in this in 2008 and 2010, is out to maintain his unbeaten record in a race that Golden Silver, which ran him close 12 months ago, bids for a second triumph in following his 2009 coup. A comprehensive victor on his reappearance at Navan, and despite rising 11 years of age, Colm Murphy's former champion chaser remains the standard-bearer.
On their day, any of Golden Silver, Noble Prince and Forpadydeplasterer could push Big Zeb hard. The prospects of the latter duo, second and third at Navan, would improve if the ground keeps drying, while Golden Silver was fortunate to win at Cork.
That said, he was keeping on when the clear leader fell at the final fence. He should be sharper now, and this is the one big race that he can win, with any rain a plus.
Verdict: Big Zeb retains much of his ability despite his advancing years.
1.55 Paddypower.com Future Champions Novice Hurdle 2m
On the back of an electric performance in the Royal Bond equivalent three weeks ago, the Willie Mullins-trained Sous Les Cieux is the one to beat. He accounted for a classy prospect in style in the Fairyhouse Grade One, and looks straightforward.
The two main threats are Cash And Go and Formidableopponent. Cash And Go is two from two over flights but this is a step up, just as it is for Formidableopponent.
An easy winner of a point-to-point before taking a bumper at Navan in October, that one could have done no more than he did when scoring on his hurdling bow at the same track a month ago. At four years of age, he can only improve.
Verdict: Sous Les Cieux should take plenty of stopping.
2.30 Paddypower.com Handicap Hurdle 2m
Lastoftheleaders came of age in spectacular style when sluicing up in a handicap chase at Fairyhouse last month, and is 17lb better in over the smaller obstacles.
Baby Whizz was impressive in lesser company at Wexford a month ago, while Some Present makes its debut for Gordon Elliott after splitting Strain Of Fame and Scottish Boogie when fourth at Punchestown. The once decent novice has a chance.
Reizovic was well held over two and a half miles last time. A good maiden winner at Naas previously, he may not be badly treated now that he reverts to the minimum trip.
Verdict: Reizovic is taken to leave his latest effort behind.
3.05 Paddy Power Chase 3m
The first four home in the Troytown all re-oppose in this competitive renewal. Ad Idem was desperately unlucky to get collared by Groody Hill on that occasion, and it will be some performance if he can show up as well again under a big burden.
Groody Hill, up eight pounds, has now risen 27lb in total since landing the first of his three recent wins. At just five years old, he may still have more in him.
Cross Appeal, which paid for a mistake at the last before finishing third at Navan, is another youngster going places. Some Target took fourth, but of more interest from his stable is On His Own, the choice of Ruby Walsh on its debut for Willie Mullins.
The Bishop Looney is also a contender. He looked well handicapped when taking the Cork Grand National, and a nine-pound hike doesn't necessarily change that.
Verdict: The Bishop Looney might still have a bit in hand.
3.40 Paddypower.com On Your Mobile Bumper 2m 4f
There is little to choose between those that have shown form already. Clash Of Kings, Fourinone, Coolking, Our Vinnie and Play The Market all fall into that bracket. It would be no surprise if one of the newcomers were to prove up to the task. Oakamoor, Ballycasey, Expanding Universe and Mobile Sizer all come from stables that can ready one, with the latter expensive buy believed to be well-regarded.
Verdict: Take a chance on Mobile Sizer.