Campbonnais can deliver for O'Leary
For the second year in a row, Michael O'Leary launches a three-pronged assault on the Midlands National at Kilbeggan that he sponsors via his Gigginstown House banner.
A year ago, Campbonnais fared best for the Ryanair supremo when third in the €50,000 handicap and Charles Byrnes' charge is fancied to improve on that under Davy Russell tonight.
Of O'Leary's other two in the 14-strong field, Uncle Tom Cobley and Tackmaster, the last-named Noel Meade-trained novice is the one with more scope for progression.
Tackmaster scored here in good style on his fencing bow in June, before failing to raise a gallop next time. While he is better than that, a first-time rating of 129 looks steep.
Liberty Counsel, representing Mullingar-based Dot Love, is also unexposed, scoring here in May to maintain a 50pc strike-rate from four chasing starts. She is 12lbs higher now, but still gets in off just 10st 9lb and is fancied as the main danger to the selection.
Having won the Connaught National over three miles prior to coming here 12 months ago, Campbonnais appeared to struggle slightly for pace over this two-mile-six-furlong trip, making a few minor mistakes before staying on to the line.
That impression was confirmed this term after he recorded a fair second to Ainama in the same Roscommon feature off a 12lb higher rating, before he again kept on for third over this trip at Limerick. The difference this evening is that the forecast soft ground is expected to bring Campbonnais' stamina to bear.
He is slightly worse off at the weights with the reopposing Ainama, but that merely reflects that the handicapper believes there is still more to come from Russell's consistent mount, and you can be sure he will be trained to the minute for this.
Earlier, the champion jockey is napped to take the opening maiden hurdle in the Gigginstown colours on Colm Murphy's Birzali. Second to Mount Colah at Down Royal, Birzali's form has been complimented by the winner and fifth, Wall Street Wally, both since obliging.
In the beginners' chase, Loughnagall gets the nod for Rathowen's Adrian Murray. Third behind Bullock Harbour on his Roscommon fencing debut, he will strip fitter now for that first outing since landing a handicap hurdle off a mark of 100 at Clonmel back in September.