JIM DREAPER could saddle his first winner of the new jumps campaign with his very first runner when Sizing Italy lines out at Sligo this evening.
The Alan Potts-owned gelding faces 15 rivals in the opening maiden hurdle, but the €7,500 heat represents a drop in grade for the handsome five-year-old.
On his only two previous starts, Sizing Italy finished sixth and seventh respectively behind Venture Capital and Thomas Edison in December, two solid outings that read well in the context of this race. Of the opposition, Dreaper's fellow Meath natives Noel Meade and Andrew Lynch provide the main dangers, with Lynch also sending out his first runner of the season in the useful Flat recruit Sonapour.
Meade's Johannisberger took second on his reappearance in a Down Royal maiden a fortnight ago, so he will strip fitter now, but may lack Sizing Italy's class.
Meade is fancied to collect with Wall Street Wally, his only other runner on the card in the conditional jockeys' maiden hurdle.
Our Ollie, second here in a handicap last time for local handler Paul Gilligan, has a squeak in this, as does Law Rebel, Jessica Harrington's bumper winner that should be much straighter following a middling reappearance effort.
However, Wall Street Wally is preferred under Keith Donoghue. His bumper form in the autumn is a shade more progressive than his opponents' and he should settle better tonight, having raced keenly when tiring into sixth on his first start since September in a Kilbeggan bumper recently.
Gilligan's Churchfield Champ, successful at the last meeting here, is passed over in favour of Harry Rogers' veteran course specialist Tin Town Boy in the Sean Graham Bookmakers Handicap Hurdle.
Roving Lad, which won for Gilligan at Limerick on Sunday, carries a 6lb penalty in the subsequent handicap, but that leaves him with a massive 12st 3lb.
Young Milly, fourth to Sorted on her first outing for nine months at the western track last time, might be the one to keep on side in that for Sharon Dunphy and Bryan Cooper.