Bayan can make Elliott and Condon jump for joy
Five-year-old primed to stay on upward curve and finally secure €250,000 showpiece for two-time runners-up
Mick Winters has conspired to deny Gordon Elliott and Davy Condon in the last two Guinness Galway Hurdles, so the absence of any runner from the shrewd Co Cork stable this year will doubtless be a source of some comfort to the Bayan team.
Cause Of Causes and Flaxen Flare filled the runner-up berth for the duo in contrasting circumstances behind Rebel Fitz and Missunited respectively. Both were progressive four-year-olds, and the year-older Bayan is on a similarly upward trajectory.
Elliott, whose Dirar finished third in 2010 and 2011, has earmarked today's fabled €250,000 showpiece for him since he went down fighting at Cheltenham in March. The wily Meath handler is clearly intent on adding the Ballybrit event to his already distinguished haul, with Midnight Game and Takeyourcapoff also set to represent him.
A field of 20 will contest what promises to be another thrilling edition of the great race. The prize fund is down €10,000, but that certainly hasn't put off our neighbours across the water, with nine raiders set to try to emulate Overturn's 2010 coup.
AP McCoy has opted for Tony Martin's market leader Thomas Edison of JP McManus' four declarations, with the champion owner facing some rare competition from Sheikh Mohammed. Newmarket-based John Ferguson oversees the Bloomfields operation, and the Sheikh's select jumping delegation has three on duty here.
Barry Geraghty, Noel Fehily and Sam Twiston-Davies have all been signed up for duty as they join 12 other riders in the search for a debut triumph.
As is ever the case, not one quarter will be asked nor given in the quest for glory.
1.50 Guinness Plus App Beginners' Chase 2m 6f
Elegant Statesman has valuable experience. He ran well here over flights last year and his latest second to Croghill Tuppence at Kilbeggan will have left him just right.
Tylers Cottage has yet to win on the track but his Killarney second suggested he might yet, while Thomond's second to Indevan at Tipperary was a fair turn. Our Man Zebo is a chasing debutant, but he is up there with the best of these on hurdle form.
Verdict – Elegant Statesman and McCoy can see off Our Man Zebo.
2.20 Guinness Harp Novices' Chase 2m 1f
Alelchi Inois drops back in trip after grinding out his second win over fences at Killarney. However, he had won over two miles at Tramore previously, and he looks very much the one to beat on this ground despite having to conceding weight.
Starkie, Usa and Back To Balloo are no mugs, with Usa the least exposed of the trio at this job. Twice second to fair sorts in the autumn, his June Roscommon win was good.
Verdict – Barry Geraghty could conspire to foil Alelchi Inois aboard Usa.
3.0 Guinness Time Handicap 1m
Sretaw was second here on Tuesday for a fifth time in a row. The in-form Gary Halpin takes seven pounds off this time so maybe that could help her cause.
Captain Cullen, Laviniad, No Dominion and Northern Rocked have chances, likewise He's Got Rhythm, an old-stager that runs well here and is down in the ratings.
Verdict – He's Got Rhythm could finally get off the mark here under Connor King.
3.40 Arthur Guinness EBF Corrib Fillies' Stakes (Listed) 7f
Johnny Murtagh's Dalkova is a late maturer that finished second to Palace at Killarney, but the drop to seven furlongs may not be ideal. Tobann and Tested will probably fight out the finish, with Tobann another that has improved hand over fist. Admittedly, she must carry a penalty for her Fairyhouse Group Three win but she is teak-tough.
Tested is more precocious. Her 1,000 Guineas sixth is her sole defeat in four starts. She had the reopposing Slipper Orchid and Ansgar behind at Naas last time, and both of those have franked the form nicely, Ansgar since winning a Curragh Group Three.
Verdict – Tested is trusted to prove herself the class act here for Weld and Smullen.
4.15 Guinness Novices' Hurdle 2m 4f
Pink Hat will relish conditions. She has won her last two over flights, and her comprehensive Kilbeggan defeat of Queen Alphabet is a fine recommendation.
The five other recent winners are of a similar level, while Mumbo Bay's Killarney second to Shield was a commendable turn. Desertmore Stream has plenty on at the top of the page, but his Punchestown success confirmed that he has really turned a corner.
Verdict – Desertmore Stream is worth a speculative venture in a tricky affair.
4.55 Guinness Galway Hurdle Handicap 2m
Thomas Edison is two pounds higher than when struggling here on soft ground in 2013. He has been disappointing over flights but his recent Flat win was encouraging.
Ready Ballinrobe winner Plinth may have been hard for McCoy to spurn. While the stats are against him as a four-year-old, he could be thrown in here on his winter form.
Bayan was a gallant third behind Whisper and Get Me Out Of Here in the Coral Cup when last seen over flights.
That is form that has worked out well, and the drop back to a fast-run two miles here isn't a concern. He is three pounds higher but sneaks in nicely off 10st 12lb, and he will be spot on after a recent pipe-opening Flat win.
Rawnaq has also been minded for this and he will love the ground. Seventh off 134 in 2013, he was a fine third off 138 in the Greatwood at Cheltenham in November.
Up to 140 now, he is also fit from a couple of pleasing placed efforts on the level.
Darwins Fox was an excellent second to Simenon at Tipperary. He remains progressive, has a nice weight and Davy Russell's booking is significant.
Parlour Games is an interesting raider. Listed class on the Flat, he is two from three over flights and Barry Geraghty's presence up top is another eye-catching move.
Verdict – Bayan appeals as nap material on his hurdle return, with Rawnaq the threat.
5.35 Guinness Surge Handicap 1m 4f
Ridestan lost little in defeat when just denied in his hat-trick quest on Monday. He reverts to the Flat and it would be no surprise to see him have a big say again.
Plenty of these could figure, but Pirate Cove stands out. He steps up in trip after getting seven pounds for his June second to the in-form Panama Hat at Leopardstown.
Verdict – Pirate Cove can defy a poor draw to justify the handicapper's caution.
6.05 Guinness Legacy INH Flat Race 2m 2f
Clondaw Farmer and Port Rock may be the two to focus on. Both have run very well in defeat, with Clondaw Farmer's Fairyhouse second possibly the best bit of form.
Verdict – John 'Shark' Hanlon's Clondaw Farmer can score for Patrick Mullins.