Pyromaniac can blaze glory trail for Hurdle heroes
A year after clinging on to fend off Shanpallas, the redoubtable Prince Rudi shoulders top-weight in another competitive edition of the €80,000 Ladbrokes Handicap Hurdle at Galway.
Stephen Nolan's versatile 13-year-old is a half-brother to the high-class chaser Bradbury Star, which famously won two Mackeson Gold Cups at Cheltenham for Josh Gifford in 1993 and 1994.
Bradbury Star remains the last horse to win back-to-back editions of what is now the Paddy Power Gold Cup.
No horse has managed to win successive renewals of this afternoon's competitive two-miler in the same time span.
As such, Prince Rudi would go some way to emulating his more distinguished sibling were he to prevail again on just his second visit to Ballybrit under seven-pound claimer Andrew Ring. It won't be easy.
A field of 20 will go to post, with Willie Mullins's Wood Breizh sneaking in at the bottom off just 10st 9lb following his third in Monday's feature event. With Ruby Walsh up, he is sure to have a big say.
The champion trainer's brothers Tom and Tony are responsible for progressive last-time-out winners Some Article and Erlkonig, while Barry Geraghty is aboard the English raider Cantlow. Maybe most intriguingly, Pyromaniac is also on duty.
In his debrief after dominating Thursday's Galway Hurdle, Tony Martin was asked how Pyromaniac might have fared had he made the cut. With a knowing smile, Martin suggested that the five-year-old would have been thereabouts as well.
Pyromaniac instead goes in search of consolation now, with Denis O'Regan, so composed aboard Quick Jack two days ago, booked to steer this time.
Later on, another successful partnership will be renewed when Denis Hogan's game Bribe The Bouncer contests the seven-furlong handicap under Connor King.
A last-gasp Ballybrit winner on Wednesday, Bribe The Bouncer carries a five-pound penalty and faces 15 rivals, so this is sure to be another thorough test. He will be in his element.
2.40 Ladbrokes Mobile Maiden 2m
Dermot Weld's consistent, if slightly frustrating, Zafayan makes a quick reappearance after finishing a respectable second to Bachasson on Monday. He was simply outclassed but ran well in defeat, so he must be a contender again, albeit he might appreciate a drop of rain.
Mick Halford's Castle Guest would be of similar ability on the Flat. He was well held here a year ago over hurdles but he was bang there on his return to jumping at Limerick in June, only to fall at the last. He has since won nicely on the Flat.
Tigris River was far from disgraced when third in a fair contest at Roscommon, with the runner-up winning since. Rocky Court tired on Monday but has gone well here in the past. Verdict - If Castle Guest runs to his potential for Paul Carberry, he could foil Zafayan.
3.15 Ladbrokes Handicap Hurdle 2m 5f
Pyromaniac is a versatile dual purpose horse that has been quite lightly-raced over flights. Successful in decent company on the Flat at the Curragh last time, he won stylishly over hurdles at Limerick previously and might not be badly treated.
Some Article has found his groove. He beat Clondaw Warrior at Fairyhouse and Macnicholson at Punchestown, so he returns now boasting some tip-top form, though he is eight pounds higher.
Erlkonig impressed with an overdue win at Killarney last time and ran well here in 2014, while the Gordon Elliott-trained Knight's Parade ran quite nicely when eighth in the amateur riders' race on Monday.
Last year's winner Prince Rudi has plenty weight but he has been running quite well, as have Pat Flynn's Gusty Rocky and Elliott's Ibsen further down the page.
Gusty Rocky is up six pounds for winning at Killarney but he has the scope to go close again. Verdict - Pyromaniac (Nap) rarely runs a bad race.
3.50 Ladbrokes Life EBF Maiden
1m Weld's Kitten Loves Roses ran a lovely race to be fifth behind Jim Bolger's smart colt Sanus Per Aquam over seven furlongs on his Curragh bow and should improve significantly. He is badly drawn but he sports a first-time visor.
Jaafy probably didn't run to as high a level when fourth over a mile at Gowran Park, although the form was franked by the runner-up High Solitaire winning this week. The Roscommon fourth Quids In has more to do now, while Aa Bee See, Alaskan Son and Landofhopeandglory are newcomers from good stables with smart pedigrees. Verdict - Hard to see Kitten Loves Roses not stepping up for Pat Smullen.
4.25 Irish Stallion Farms EBF Nursery 7f
Leath Na Hoibre built on his promising outings in maidens to win convincingly on his handicap debut for Brendan Duke at the Curragh. Being gelded might also be to his advantage and he might still figure here off a six-pound higher mark.
Dancing On Air was well held that day but this furlong longer trip should suit, while her Ballydoyle stablemate Antelope Canyon is dropping notably in class. He should run well under his claiming rider.
Auld Enemy won on its Navan bow before then struggling up in grade. Chances are he is better than that, while Hoppala sports a first-time visor after finishing second to Deauville and Air Vice Marshal on his last two starts. In that context, a mark of 87 for 9st 4lb here looks favourable.
Verdict - From an inside draw, Weld's Hoppala has lots of appeal.
5.00 Ladbrokes Red Day Handicap 7f
Bribe The Bouncer carries a five-pound penalty for his narrow win on Wednesday. He is drawn nicely but this drop back from a mile might not play to his strengths.
Knights Templar is versatile trip-wise, having won over seven and eight furlongs this year. At Leopardstown last time, he just got up over a mile and he remains competitively handicapped on old form, having won off this mark in 2013.
Three Bells is not drawn well but he has been in great form. If he can get a good position he ought to figure prominently, with the lightly-weighted Hatton Cross and Vasoni others with each-way prospects.
Verdict - Worth taking a chance on Knights Templar at the ratings.
5.35 Ladbrokes Handicap 1m 3f
After winning three on the spin, Breenainthemyrca is now two-stone higher in the handicap. However, Eoin Doyle's charge scored with something in hand from the consistent Deor at Roscommon in June, so he might not be done winning yet.
Dancing Noretta won going away at Killarney, albeit the race fell apart a little. She is nine pounds higher here but Jessica Harrington's stable is on fire. One Cool Poet was a little one-paced when third here in a similar race on Monday, while Cristy's Call and Acid are others with claims.
Verdict - It isn't beyond Arthur Moore's One Cool Poet to improve enough to collect.
6.05 Ladbrokes INH Flat Race 2m
First Figaro lost little in defeat to the highly-regarded Champers On Ice at Punchestown, edged out by a head in a ding-dong battle. That was the second time that he showed real ability so he will have a big say now.
Another Cyclone is the most obvious danger. He showed up well when fourth in a decent race at Fairyhouse but he will need to do much better against a rival of First Figaro's quality.
Verdict - Finny Maguire is trusted to guide Weld's First Figaro home.