Experience to pay off for Big Game Hunter
Tomorrow's Thurles fixture might yet go ahead even though the 'chase track at the Tipperary venue was deemed to be frozen in parts yesterday morning and plans were then put in place to list the two surviving events over fences at the end of their eight-race card.
Owner-manager Pierce Molony hasn't given up hope of staging at least the first half-dozen contests, as happened last Sunday in Cork, with the following day's refixed Punchestown meeting already subject to an inspection tomorrow morning (8.0).
Even the remarkable Thurles course cannot cope with successive frosts, particularly as we near the shortest day of the year, so it will be a bonus indeed if a session -- supported by Tom Egan's Horse And Jockey Hotel -- proceeds as planned.
Champion owner Michael O'Leary's Gigginstown House Stud appears to have the opening Gift Horse Gallery Hurdle at their mercy with Big Game Hunter, from the Mouse Morris yard, and the Dessie Hughes-trained Si C'etait Vrai representing the outfit.
While the latter justified hefty support in a Naas maiden hurdle seven weeks ago, the 124-rated Big Game Hunter, for which Cork claimer Adrian Heskin has been booked, has an edge in jumping experience that could make all the difference.
The following Horse And Jockey Hotel Hurdle is a Listed affair that has produced more than its fair share of surprise results in recent renewals and another cat-and-mouse tactical race is in prospect as Secant Star makes his seasonal return for the Willie Mullins stable.
Although the older pair Rick and Asigh Pearl bring winning form to the table, Secant Star and fellow French import Son Amix -- which has proved expensive to follow -- could have their measure over two miles around this tight circuit, and the Mullins runner is taken to collect.
A division of the Stallion Owners Maiden Hurdle may principally benefit locally based Edward O'Grady and the Hughes yard, with placed pair Out Now and Ross Na Righ respectively bound to be suited by stepping up now to an extended two miles, six furlongs trip.
Goban Saor for O'Grady and stable jockey Andrew McNamara looks the main threat to Michael Hourigan's fluent course and distance winner False Messenger in the Novice Handicap Hurdle, while a repetition of his Punchestown third to Darwins Fox could suffice for Kieran Purcell's Steele's Rock to land the bumper.