Going perfect for Solwhit
Russell holds trump card on Byrnes' money-spinner
Solwhit starts out tomorrow at Punchestown in the Dobbins & Madigans Hurdle on a seasonal journey that's likely to bring the six-year-old both to Aintree next April and back to the Kildare venue for a repeat crack at their Champion Hurdle the following month.
Already a five-time scorer at Grade One level, the French-bred star of the Charles Byrnes stable tackles 2007 Cheltenham hero Sublimity in addition to hat-trick seeker Donnas Palm and last month's course heroine Voler La Vedette in an intriguing, heavy-ground affair.
Reputedly not as forward as when defeating arch-rival Hurricane Fly 12 months ago, Wexford-based Top Of The Hill Syndicate's tremendous money-spinner may still have what it takes to nullify the fitness advantages now of Donnas Palm and Voler La Vedette.
Returning from injury, Sublimity is unlikely to reverse last January's Irish Champion Hurdle form with Davy Russell's mount, so the opposition to Solwhit, both in the betting ring and out on the track, is bound to centre on the other pair in what could be a tactical race.
If she settles for Paul Townend, Voler La Vedette -- which has yet to succeed at the highest level -- may possess a superior change of pace to Donnas Palm in the straight. But by then, Russell may have played a potential trump card on Solwhit, which stays well and relishes this going.
Little more than an hour earlier the Craddockstown Novice Chase, which went to subsequent Cheltenham festival hero Sizing Europe a year ago, should also prove a fascinating and informative contest, with Noble Prince and Realt Dubh expected to provide the fireworks.
Despite a rare jumping lapse in Galway behind Head Of The Posse, Realt Dubh remains a talented recruit to this discipline, although this pick of Noel Meade's pair did not achieve the same level of proficiency over timber as recent course victor Noble Prince.
Hardly asked to engage top gear then by Paul Carberry when making such a taking debut over the larger obstacles, Paul Nolan's charge has Townend deputising for that injured championship leader and he may elicit a repeat performance which first cousin Davy Condon won't match with Realt Dubh.
Outpointed only on the run-in by Noble Prince that day, Healys Bar and the previous week's Thurles winner Erritt Lake, not surprisingly, bypass the Grade Two Craddockstown Novice Chase to step up in trip for the Grade Three Florida Pearl Novice Chase.
However, this understandable ploy on the part of their connections might not pay off if Thegreatjohnbrowne -- which likewise starred over fences here 18 days ago under Carberry to defeat subsequent Down Royal scorer Bostons Angel -- replicates that impressive jumping display for Condon, who will be hopeful of doubling up for the Meade yard with Lean Times in the Stallion Owners Maiden Hurdle that rounds off the Jackpot.
The former champion trainer appears to have found an ideal opportunity for Jered to get back on the winning trail in Cork's conditions hurdle after a less than inspiring campaign over fences last term and his rider, Niall Madden, likewise should strike in the JP McManus silks as English import Ainama returns to the scene of his smooth early August success in the following Grade C handicap hurdle that opens the Jackpot.