Don is an offer you can't refuse
Don Cossack should have little trouble enhancing his lofty reputation with a first Grade One victory in the featured novice hurdle at Navan tomorrow.
A total of seven have been declared for the €70,000 two-and-a-half-miler, with Willie Mullins' decision to debut French bumper winner Pont Alexandre one of the more intriguing strands to the race.
Rather than ride two-time hurdle victor Reine Angevine, Ruby Walsh has opted for the unexposed four-year-old, a decision that is of note in a race that all the available domestic form suggests will be a one-sided affair.
Still, in the circumstances, Pont Alexandre would need to be prodigiously talented to trouble Don Cossack. Successful from an impossible position in the Grade Two bumper on the same card 12 months ago, Gordon Elliott's Gigginstown Stud-owned five-year-old signed off on that part of his career with three wins.
He then got his new venture under way with a resounding defeat of the smart Sizing Gold over two miles here three weeks ago. Undoubtedly, this is a better race, but it is impossible to envisage anything other than another win for Davy Russell's mount.
Depending on what Pont Alexandre is capable of, the Noel Meade-trained Busty Brown has possibly the best credentials of the remainder, having beaten the reopposing Seefood in a Grade Two on the same November card.
He is certainly improving, but not at the rate required to trouble the likely long odds-on favourite.
Elliott and Russell are also fancied to take the Grade Two Tara Hurdle with Un Beau Matin. At the weights, Mullins' top-rated Simenon would be the one to beat if he can overcome an ordinary Punchestown effort behind the selection a month ago.
However, Un Beau Matin obliged convincingly then, confirming the impression that he is a progressive four-year-old.
Previously, he found only the subsequent Grade One winner Jezki too strong at Naas, so he still has the scope to overcome four-pound worse terms with both Owega Star – second last time – and Simenon.
Apart from the presence of Don Cossack, the highlight at the Meath venue is the seasonal and chasing debut of Mullins' Boston Bob.
Successful in the main event 12 months ago before following up in a lower grade at Leopardstown, the Bob Back seven-year-old suffered his first defeat over flights when a commendable second to Brindisi Breeze in the three-mile novices' hurdle at Cheltenham in March.
Having beaten the classy Days Hotel in a Tallow point-to-point in 2010, he has a true chasing pedigree, so it will be disappointing if he doesn't collect for Walsh.
In the maiden hurdle, Walsh may coax a win out of the frustrating Wingtips, but his sister Katie is trusted to deliver the nap on Champagne James in the bumper.
The champion trainer's Killarney scorer Union Dues is one of four other winners in the Irish Form Book-sponsored event. He may be decent, but the Barry Connell-owned Champagne James was deeply impressive over course and distance on its November bow for the jockey's father Ted. If he is as good as he looked, he should win.