Geraghty and Harrington to secure spoils at Kilbeggan
Barry Geraghty can make his first domestic appointment as Irish Grand National-winning rider a successful one when he partners Jessica Harrington's Macnicholson at Kilbeggan this evening.
The Meath man skips across the county boundary to grace the popular Westmeath venue's first fixture of the year, and Macnicholson is his and Harrington's sole representative.
That is significant, not least given the poor standard of opposition in the two-mile maiden hurdle.
Granted, in 11 career starts, Macnicholson has yet to win, with three successive runner-up finishes raising obvious questions about his resolution.
Nonetheless, he hasn't done much wrong in those defeats, latterly staying on purposefully behind Cracking Chap at Navan in a race that threw up last weekend's facile Cork bumper winner, Badgerfort.
If Macnicholson replicates that level of performance or improves on it for today's forecast good ground, he appeals as nap material under the in-form rider.
Another that stands out on what is a busy card is the Maurice Phelan-trained Alghanem in the Greville Arms Hotel Handicap Hurdle.
Andrew McNamara's six-year-old mount has taken time to find his rhythm over flights, but his third to Seven Acres on stepping up to three miles for a first time at Wexford was full of promise.
The slow ground on that occasion might ultimately have stretched his stamina, so his chance today will be aided by the drier conditions. Moreover, with the second, Drive On Locky, scoring at Tramore in the meantime, there is every reason to trust the validity of his Wexford turn.
Gordon Elliott has a number of live chances, and it would be no surprise to see him depart with a small handful of winners. He has engaged Bobby McNally for the fancied Drunken Counsel in the two-mile handicap, with Davy Russell pencilled in for Hold Em Cowboy in the Sean Hughes Memorial Mullingar Park Hotel Handicap Chase and Layla Joan in the mares' beginners' chase.
The last-named point-to-point and triple hurdle-winning mare is particularly interesting. She has unseated Paul Carberry on her last two hurdle starts, but she has looked more clumsy than anything in doing so. Fences could be the making of her.
At Dundalk, Dermot Weld might depart with a 100pc yield. He and Pat Smullen team up for the classy Tahanny in a €20,000 three-runner race that should be theirs for the taking, and Wateed contests a seven-furlong maiden that could also prove one-sided.