First Lieutenant to continue progress
Mouse Morris' hugely exciting novice chaser First Lieutenant takes the next step on the road back to Cheltenham when he lines out at Cork tomorrow.
A last-gasp winner of the two-mile-five-furlong novice hurdle at the Festival in March, First Lieutenant made light work of the opposition when pitched into Grade Three company on his fencing debut at Tipperary a fortnight ago.
Tomorrow's Irish Stallion Farms EBF-sponsored novices' contest looks to be of a similar order, so it will be a surprise if the six-year-old doesn't continue his progress under Davy Russell.
Of First Lieutenant's seven rivals, Oscar Dan Dan would be the most serious threat if he translates his hurdling form to fences on his first start for Tony Martin. However, at nine years of age, he is entering the fray quite late so may take time to adjust.
Ordinary Man and Granaruid bring winning form to the table, but neither have the class to trouble an on-song First Lieutenant. A big, traditional chaser to look at, the Presenting gelding couldn't have done anymore than he did at Tipperary and he may not have to break sweat here if he enjoys another clean round of jumping.
Earlier, Russell will also be popular on Rebel Fitz in the two-mile novice hurdle. Mick Winters' highly strung charge won for a second time over flights at Clonmel three weeks ago, but he is passed over now in favour of Absolutlyfantastic.
A bumper winner at Killarney in July, Henry de Bromhead's four-year-old defied shocking conditions to maintain his 100pc strike-rate on his hurdling bow at Gowran Park recently.
Forced to make much of his own running on that occasion, that the Alhaarth gelding toughed it out all the way was commendable, and the fact that he receives weight from Rebel Fitz here will help Andrew Lynch's cause.
Russell might start the day brightly by taking the opening maiden hurdle with Maxim Gorky. Representing the in-form Noel Meade yard, Maxim Gorky finished second to Louisville Lip at Thurles on his first outing over flights in January, before then struggling behind Unaccompanied in a Grade One at Leopardstown.
With 22 runners, this will be definitely be no cakewalk and King Vuvuzela is one of the selection's more interesting rivals. On its sole racecourse appearance at Punchestown in May, Paul Nolan's four-year-old ran out a five-length winner of the bumper, so there could also be a lot more to come from that one yet.
On the mixed card at Naas, Meade could add to his tally with his two runners. In the Profile Systems Kommerling C70 Hurdle, he saddles the classy Donnas Palm.
Recent Listowel scorer Pittoni will be Donnas Palm's main threat in the seven-runner heat, but the latter shaped with some promise when third behind The Real Article and Luska Lad on its reappearance at Tipperary two weeks ago.
If the handicapper is right, off level weights here Paul Carberry's partner has six pounds in hand over Pittoni.
The subsequent handicap hurdle sees Meade and Carberry team up with Another Palm.
This one is reverting to flights having won at Fairyhouse and then finished a good second to Uncle Junior at Punchestown on his first two starts in handicaps in the spring; off a six-pound lower mark, he should go close.
On the Flat, John Oxx's Manieree is fancied to complete her hat-trick in the Listed race, while Paul Flynn's Indigo River appeals in the Derrinstown Stud Birdcatcher.
The valuable nursery is well contested with 12 runners, but Flynn's Kodiac filly progressed to win nicely at Roscommon, and she gets in here off just 8st 10lbs.