Hanlon 'happy' with Cyclone's Champion bid
While the Flat season continues to crank up with Classic trials aplenty, the fact that Fairyhouse and Punchestown Festivals are still to come means most of the domestic focus remains on the jumps action.
The recent improvement in the weather is being welcomed by most Flat trainers, but one dual-purpose handler hoping the ground doesn't dry out too much in the coming weeks is John 'Shark' Hanlon.
With his Hidden Cyclone targeting the Boylesports.com Champion Chase at Punchestown on April 29, Hanlon is keeping his fingers crossed that conditions will be on the easy side of good.
On the back of his fine run when placed behind Dynaste in the Ryanair at Cheltenham, the sponsors make Hanlon's stable star their 4/1 favourite to clinch a first Grade One victory.
"Everything is good. We haven't done a lot with him since Cheltenham, he's had a fairly easy time, but he seems in good old form," said Hanlon.
"Hopefully he'll be running in Punchestown, as long as the ground isn't too fast and I don't think they'll let that happen. I'm not sure if any of the English horses will be coming over to take us on, we'll see, but we're happy with our horse and we're looking forward to it."
Tom Taaffe, meanwhile, is debating whether to run his Argcot in Punchestown's Gold Cup, sponsored for the first time by Bibby Financial Services Ireland, or the bet365 Gold Cup at Sandown.
A narrow winner of the Red Mills Chase at Gowran Park in February, the six-year-old stepped up to Grade One level at Aintree and justified his trainer's confidence with a superb effort, finishing third behind Silviniaco Conti and Dynaste in the Betfred Bowl.
"He'll either run at Punchestown or Sandown before the end of the season and we'll see which way we're going to go nearer the time," said the Straffan, Co Kildare handler.
"Everything is open at this stage. Things will become clearer once we've seen what way the ground is going and what the weights are looking like."
As for the action on the level, Ger Lyons is hoping to find out if he has a Classic contender on his hands tomorrow when Obliterator runs in the Ebm-Papst Feilden Stakes at Newmarket.
The Qatar Racing-owned colt – a half-brother to the Irish 1,000 Guineas heroine Just The Judge – was an impressive winner of a Curragh maiden on his only start as a juvenile in September.
The son of Oratorio is quoted as big as 50/1 for next month's English 2,000 Guineas, but those odds would be cut significantly if he were to win his trial.
Mark Johnston's Somewhat brings the highest official rating to the contest by virtue of finishing second in two Group Two races last season, although he finished down the field in the Racing Post Trophy.
Saeed bin Suroor's True Story was second to subsequent Breeders' Cup winner Outstrip on debut before easily winning his second start back at Newmarket and rates a nice prospect, while the highly regarded Barley Mow represents Richard Hannon but he was surprisingly beaten at Lingfield recently. Hannon also runs Truth Or Dare
Other promising types engaged in the 10-runner field included Brian Meehan's Madeed, Mick Appleby's Cordite, and Ismail Mohammed's Stormardal, which was fifth in the Dewhurst.
Also on the same afternoon is the traditional 1,000 Guineas trial, the Lanwades Stud Nell Gwyn Stakes, and it has attracted unbeaten fillies Euro Charline, Pelerin and Folk Melody in a 15-runner field.
Marco Botti's Euro Charline takes a significant step up in class following successive victories on the all-weather at Wolverhampton, while the Italian trainer also saddles Pelerin, which looked the part when making a winning debut at Kempton in October.
Charlie Appleby-trained Godolphin filly Folk Melody has not been seen in competitive action since her impressive display in a July course maiden last summer and is joined by stable companion Majeyda.
Sandiva is a major player of leading Yorkshire-based trainer Richard Fahey, while John Gosden's Dorothy B bids to maintain the trainer's scintillating early season form.