Hospital a healthy option for McManus in 'Midlands'
JP McMANUS' horses dominated last year's Midlands Grand National at Kilbeggan and the champion owner once again looks set to play a leading role in tonight's edition of the €50,000 contest.
Double Seven, which went on to finish third in the real thing at Aintree, emerged on top after a dramatic finish 12 months ago.
This time, McManus relies on the recent impressive course winner Fever Pitch, the progressive Hospital and Bottler Rattler, likely outsider of the trio.
The Arthur Moore-trained Fever Pitch will doubtless be popular under just a 7lb penalty now that he has found his form. However, it is Hospital that is marginally preferred.
Mark Walsh more than likely had the choice here, so it is interesting that he has opted for Eric McNamara's six-year-old.
His mount has run just five times over fences, winning twice and latterly finishing second to Lord Ben – a winner again since – at Listowel in June.
That was over most of two-and-a-half miles, so this maiden voyage over an extended three miles is an unknown. Nonetheless, Hospital has the scope to do better still over fences if the trip is within his range and there is obviously a chance that he might even improve for it. Of the remainder in the 13-runner contest, which has lost its sponsor of five years, Rodger Sweeney's Shamiran is a similarly unexposed sort that should be thereabouts under Paddy Kennedy.
Powder Hound appeals as nap material for Noel Meade in the two-mile maiden hurdle.
The likes of Poetic Lord, Cut Loose, Jappeloup and Damefirth are of a similar level level of ability, but Powder Hound's winter form, when he was placed in fair company on each of three starts, is a cut above.
If he runs to that level on his first outing since February, he will be hard to beat under Davy Condon.
In the two-mile handicap hurdle, Henry de Bromhead and Davy Russell could get among the winners with Treacy Hotels Bay, which ran well to be third here last time on its return from a similar lay-off.
The son of Overbury hasn't been too consistent, but he is potentially well-handicapped.
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