Briar hill primed to spark a ruby double by making winning debut over hurdles
A RATHER mundane midweek card at Wexford today will be boosted by the hurdling debut of Cheltenham winner Briar Hill in the opening maiden.
However, the odds on the five-year-old making a winning start over flights will be considerably shorter than the 25/1 he was allowed to go off prior to landing the Champion Bumper.
Trained by Willie Mullins, Briar Hill is a former point-to-point winner, so jumping should not be an issue for Ruby Walsh's mount although the sharpness of the track will not play to his stamina strengths.
Behemoth should improve for a recent run in a competitive Naas bumper, and Henry de Bromhead fields Molly Connors, but it will be a major shock if Briar Hill doesn't oblige.
De Bromhead and stable jockey Andrew Lynch look to have a much better chance of landing the Slaney Maiden Hurdle with Grey Monk, which was placed twice in decent company over hurdles last season.
Edward O'Grady's Lord Of Lords is the danger, having followed up a Navan bumper win with a respectable fourth to Bright New Dawn but slight preference is given to Lynch's mount.
Walsh is also expected to score on the Mullins-trained Royal Moll in the mares novice hurdle. The six-year-old made hard work of a maiden hurdle at Galway but the form has since been enhanced by Thurles winner Catimini. Diyala finished runner-up to Catimini so she's strictly held on the formbook and the principal threat is likely to come from Kilbarry Beauty, which disappointed badly at Down Royal after winning a Killarney maiden.
Kilbarry Beauty should give a more accurate reflection of her true ability today, but Royal Moll is taken to prevail.
The beginners chase confined to the fairer sex looks a good opportunity for Speckled Wood to break her duck over the larger obstacles. Mark Walsh takes over the reins on the JP McManus-owned five-year-old and she should have enough reserves to see off Sugar Bullet and Blazing Sonnet.