Having ridden more winners than anyone else over the festive period, the ever-dependable Philip Enright is trusted to again deliver on the nap selection Its The Ice I Like at Fairyhouse.
Jockeys' championship rivals Davy Russell and Ruby Walsh are both on duty at the Co Meath venue this afternoon, but Enright, a Tralee native based in Sam Maguire's home town of Dunmanway, should have their measure in the two-and-a-half-mile maiden hurdle.
Just edged out by Abou Ben at Navan before Christmas, former winning point-to-pointer Its The Ice I Like will be suited by the step up from two miles, as his in-form pilot goes in search of an eighth victory since St Stephen's Day in the 12-runner heat.
The Robert Tyner-trained seven-year-old, purchased by JP McManus after its bumper triumph at Clonmel in November, drew 15 lengths clear of the third when caught by the well-backed winner last time. A reproduction of that performance ought to be good enough now.
Walsh, who remains 20 shy of Russell at the top of the jockeys' table, has four solid chances on the seven-race spread, including the returning Our Monty in the conditions hurdle. Unbeaten in three -- latterly in the Cork Grand National -- for Willie Mullins in the autumn of 2009, that one cannot be discounted, but Walsh's sister Katie is preferred here.
The leading amateur rider partners her father Ted's That'll Do Me, which still has a few pounds to find with a number of its eight opponents, even after you factor in the 13lb hike that it has been attributed for scoring by an impressive 15 lengths at Punchestown recently. Despite this, the Bob Back six-year-old is progressive, so is taken to collect for a third time in four starts.
Gordon Elliott's The Shepherd gets the nod in a competitive beginners' chase. Noel Meade's 2007 Hatton's Grace Hurdle winner Aitmatov returns to the scene of its finest hour here under the guidance of Paul Carberry, while Cadspeed, High Desert, Harpsy Cord and Rathlin also feature.
However, The Shepherd, clear of the rest when second to Meade's Gran Torino at Down Royal, will relish the heavy going more than most under Davy Condon.