French import Alelchi can sparkle for Mullins
The Bank Holiday festivities kick off at Tramore and Down Royal this evening, with Ruby Walsh and Davy Russell opting to compete at the picturesque seaside venue in the south east.
The winners of 11 jump jockeys' titles between them, both are expected to get on the scoresheet, with Walsh possibly set to ride one of the brightest prospects on duty in Alelchi Inois.
Willie Mullins' six-year-old French import contests the two-mile beginners' chase on its first outing since finishing fourth in a Grade Three hurdle at Cork in December.
A winner of two of its three previous starts for the champion trainer, Alelchi Inois appeals as the sort of horse that could enjoy a lucrative summer chasing campaign, so he is fancied to begin with a victory now.
Jessica Harrington's enigmatic Steps To Freedom is undoubtedly the best horse in the race, but he has become an increasingly unreliable proposition.
Russell's mount Ring Ben could prove a more dangerous threat. Second over course and distance in deep ground in January, Pat O'Connor's charge might enjoy the bit of good ground.
The Gold Cup-winning rider could be on the pick of the runners in the two maiden hurdles.
He is tipped to foil Mullins' Ashjar aboard Austin Leahy's Honey Pound in the two-miler, while John Nicholson's mare Well Tuned can account for her male rivals in the two-mile-five-furlong contest.
Third here last year before winning her bumper on a dry surface at Roscommon, the Flemensfirth five-year-old has been placed in two of her last three hurdle starts.
As long as the ground holds up, she could have a big say in a race that lacks any real depth.
Rising star Johnny Burke has five chances of bagging his first win as a professional.
Of the five, Bose Ikard might be the one to oblige him in the longer beginners' chase, Noel Meade's charge having run well to be third over an inadequate trip on his fencing bow at Down Royal.
At the Maze venue tonight, Tramore's 11 jockeys' titles is bettered by two, with Barry Geraghty, Paul Carberry and Paul Townend joined by Flat counterparts Pat Smullen and Joseph O'Brien.
Carberry can get the card under way with a win on Meade's Gaius Marius in the Barclay O2 Maiden Hurdle, with Smullen trusted to land the nap aboard Pirita in the five-furlong Flat equivalent.
This is a competitive affair, but Dermot Weld's Invincible Spirit filly has bundles of potential.
On her sole outing over six furlongs at Fairyhouse last June, she kept on to be fourth behind Wonderfully, form that should give her a serious chance over this slightly shorter trip.