Cyclone to leave rivals in wake
HIDDEN CYCLONE adds a bit of star appeal to the featured Michael Purcell Memorial Novice Hurdle at Thurles this afternoon.
The classy six-year-old, whose trainer John 'Shark' Hanlon won the race with Western Leader in 2010, has been beaten only once in five starts after landing a bumper on his debut at Gowran Park last April, and was impressive when scoring at Leopardstown in January.
Andrew McNamara's mount must concede weight all round in today's Grade Two as a result of that triumph, but he remains the one to beat in the €24,375 contest.
Chief among Hidden Cyclone's opponents will be Bishopsfurze and Crash. The latter Gigginstown Stud-owned contender is unlikely to excel until he goes chasing, but his recent course win suggested that there may yet be more to come over hurdles.
That said, Bishopsfurze could be the selection's biggest threat. Successful over flights three times already, Willie Mullins' charge disappointed when upped in class at Naas last month. However, he has since left that reversal behind with ready victories at Clonmel and Thurles.
The Bishopsfurze team of Mullins and Paul Townend is also well represented in two of the six other races on the card, with Quiscover Fontaine fancied to get the day off to good start in the Cashel Chase. On his first run of the season back at the Tipperary venue in January, Quiscover Fontaine shaped promisingly when second to Psycho.
With that outing under his belt and the weights in his favour, he ought to collect now, though Caim Hill is arguably the most interesting runner in the race. Philip Fenton's gelding progressed to win twice over fences when last seen in the spring, and a bold showing here would be a good start to his campaign.
In the maiden hurdle, Townend and Mullins should further consolidate their positions at the head of their respective championships with the facile Punchestown bumper winner Celtic Folklore, while the Irish Stallion Farms EBF Mares' Chase could be between Back Me Up and Shirley Casper. The 10-year-old Shirley Casper ran respectably behind Realt Dubh in the Arkle, but Back Me Up may have her measure on the basis that she has more scope for improvement.
After that, Stay can keep Davy Russell in the hunt for the riders' title by taking the beginners' chase. The prevailing heavy ground ought to be to this Tramore winner's liking on his fencing debut.