Glam Gerry to steal show
The full effect of yesterday's rainfall on the ground at Gowran Park won't really be known until racing gets under way this afternoon, but it's safe to assume that the inaugural running of the Thyestes Chase under Goffs sponsorship will not be for the faint-hearted.
A maximum field of 18 goes to post for the prestigious three-mile handicap, so a thorough test is guaranteed. In the last 10 years, only Dessie Hughes' 2011 winner Siegemaster has lumped more than 11st to victory, and the prevailing conditions will again make life very difficult for those in that bracket, namely Ad Idem, Western Charmer and Tharawaat.
As well as Western Charmer, Hughes saddles Rivage D'Or in his bid to secure back-to-back victories in the €52,000 showpiece. Unplaced on much drier going in the Paddy Power Chase at Leopardstown after Christmas, the mud-lover is handicapped to go close if he can recapture his very best form in the hands of Bryan Cooper.
Of Willie Mullins' four runners, Paul Townend's mount Some Target appeals as another each-way prospect, while Mouse Morris' Tinakellylad could belie long odds to have a say on the back of a narrow defeat at Cork. Fancied for the win, however, is Glam Gerry.
Sporting Barry Connell's yellow silks for Colm Murphy, the relatively lightly raced eight-year-old recovered from numerous blunders to run out an impressive eight-length winner on his handicap bow over the bigger obstacles at Leopardstown.
Glam Gerry has gone up no less than 20lb for that, but he's sure to have learned from the experience and in Brian Hayes he has the assistance of probably the best 7lb claimer around.
Murphy's only other runner on the card is Voler La Vedette in the Galmoy Hurdle. Faced with the prospect of taking on the mighty Hurricane Fly on good ground in Sunday's Champion Hurdle, the Wexford handler opted to let his classy mare run here instead.
There is no avoiding the Mullins bandwagon, though, as his Zaidpour now provides the main threat to Voler La Vedette, which advertised her prowess over today's three-mile trip at Leopardstown. A perfectly respectable seventh behind Al Ferof on his final outing last term, Mullins' Aga Khan-bred gelding hacked up in two starts before Christmas.
Overall, the mare probably has the stronger form in the book, and Zaidpour must concede 7lb to her now. That said, it's hard to see where the pace will come from, so there is the potential for this to be a tactical event.
Should that prove to be the case, Zaidpour may be better equipped to cope. He is a straightforward sort with a potent turn of foot, and it would be no surprise if the 25/1 that can be had about him for the World Hurdle at Cheltenham has disappeared by the close of play.
The champion trainer might also collect with Gorgeous Sixty and Morning Royalty. While Moscow Mannon is a formidable opponent in the bumper, Morning Royalty looked a smart prospect when sluicing up by 17 lengths at Punchestown in December.
We know less about Gorgeous Sixty, a French import that runs in the PJ Foley Memorial Hurdle under Ruby Walsh. Arnaud and In Bloom both won nicely on their hurdling debuts, while Burrenbridge Lad and One Cool Shabra are reliable yardsticks.
Gorgeous Sixty will need to be pretty useful to fend off that lot, but she represents the increasingly powerful Rich Ricci here, having obliged by 10 lengths on her second hurdle start at Auteuil in September. It would be no surprise to see her land the spoils.