Jumbo can defy weight to see off talented rivals
The Grade Two Red Mills Trial Hurdle in which Solwhit starred 12 months ago before going on to greater glory at both Aintree and Punchestown is undoubtedly the feature event this afternoon at Gowran Park.
Unless the Met Eireann forecast is wide of the mark, this meeting should proceed as planned with manager Margaret Fogarty more than optimistic of just a light frost overnight followed by a bright morning.
The Grade One penalty which Jumbo Rio picked up in Punchestown at the conclusion of a lucrative initial campaign over timber means he has to give weight to each of his five rivals here after a break of over six weeks.
Nevertheless, today's soft ground and, indeed, the minimum trip should play to his strengths and Edward O'Grady's charge will be a prime fancy to cope with the talented if frustrating Muirhead and Noble Prince.
That pair drop back in distance this afternoon, Muirhead possibly not having fully seen out two miles and three furlongs when pipped at the post at Naas last month by a rejuvenated Ebadiyan.
Initially successful as a jumper here, Noble Prince was asked to tackle three miles at Leopardstown after Christmas and looked a winner for quite a while in the straight before giving best to Powerstation.
Of the pair, Muirhead has obviously achieved more around today's distance, though he's proved expensive to follow since dividing Solwhit and an off-colour Hurricane Fly at Punchestown last November.
Even with the weights in his favour here, Muirhead will hardly reverse Leopardstown placings with Jumbo Rio from their late December meeting when Andrew McNamara's mount was a close third to Solwhit and Sublimity.
Local hope Luska Lad, which is invariably at his best making the running, could earn some place money for connections ahead of the busy De Valira and veteran Carthalawn in what may prove a tactical affair.
Champion trainer Willie Mullins, who withdrew Cheltenham-bound Quevega from the Trial Hurdle yesterday, also opted to rely solely on another of his French imports, J'y Vole, for the following Red Mills Chase.
Last year's victor Glenfinn Captain as well as Watson Lake and Washington Lad could struggle to keep tabs on main market fancies J'y Vole and Siegemaster, placed in both the Paddy Power Chase and Tendrleen Thyestes Chase.
Out of her depth in the Lexus Chase, J'y Vole had previously stayed on well under Paul Townend for third money over this afternoon's trip behind Joncol and In Compliance in the Durkan Chase at Punchestown.
Proven over this course and distance, Townend's mount has a fine opportunity to get back to winning ways now by overhauling the free-going Siegemaster.