Deutschland has experience to throw his weight about
Six years after Ansar carried me to a memorable victory in the Galway Plate, I'm pleased to have another exciting ride in the main chasing event of the week at Ballybrit. I'm on Deutschland for Willie Mullins this time -- a horse with a touch of class that I'm confident will run a big race despite having to carry 11st 5lb.
As a novice last year, he was beaten less than a length by Aran Concerto and Barker in the Powers Gold Cup, form that entitles him to a big burden. He also beat Majestic Concorde prior to that, though that one is better off at today's weights.
Majestic Concorde is obviously the talking horse, and I'd expect Mullins' second runner, Themoonandsixpence, to be another live threat. Both of those have been trained especially for this, and they get in off 10st 12lb and 10st 6lb respectively.
However, they are also relatively inexperienced over fences, so that's where Deutschland might have an edge. He is only small, but he is proven at a high level over fences, and I'm optimistic that he can feature prominently. Whatever happens, I'll hardly have as straightforward a job as I did in 2004 -- Ansar only needed pointing in the right direction -- but that doesn't mean we haven't a chance.
In the two-and-a-half-mile handicap hurdle, I ride Ikidunot for Maureen Danagher. I was fifth on him at Killarney two weeks ago on his first outing since the Punchestown festival. He will improve for the run, though there are one or two in-form types in the field he might struggle to cope with.
Mr Bones and King High stand out. King High was only just touched off at Gowran Park last time, and Mr Bones comes here having won two on the bounce.
At Roscommon recently he beat Impersonator, which has won twice since, so that is rock-solid form. Mr Bones is the one to beat, but Ikidunot can sneak a place at a price.
In the following three-mile handicap hurdle I'm on Aggie's Lad for Tom Taaffe. Aggie's Lad hasn't run over hurdles for a few years, but I'm not surprised Tom is reverting to the smaller obstacles with him now, because he was too highly rated when I rode him over fences at Wexford a few weeks ago.
He is six pounds lower over hurdles, which should give him a chance to get involved in an open race. I'd expect Fairwood Bob -- another that competes here off a favourable 109 compared to the 117 he has been running well off over fences -- to be a potent danger, but Your Busy is probably the pick.
That one has won two of its last three for its owner Ronan O'Gara and it had an excuse when second at Killarney last time. Although he was well beaten by Casey Top, it rained quite heavily before the race and that certainly didn't help his cause. He could make amends now.
My fourth ride is on Star Of Aragon for Your Busy's trainer James Nash in the Flat maiden. He has been working well and should give a good account, but may struggle to cope with Dermot Weld's Unaccompanied.
I also like Final Day in the opener. With Ballyadam Brook sure to make it a test, I'd expect Paul Carberry to sneak through with a late run on Gordon Elliot's impressive Downpatrick winner.
Casey's five to follow:
3.00 -- Final Day
3.35 -- Mr Bones
4.10 -- Your Busy
5.25 -- Deutschland
7.10 -- Unaccompanied