Last Instalment can make grade
Last Instalment steps up to graded company today as Philip Fenton's highly-regarded gelding bids to maintain his winning sequence in the Coolmore-sponsored novice hurdle at Fairyhouse.
Immensely impressive in a point-to-point and a bumper last spring, Last Instalment made a belated start to this season when scoring on his hurdling debut at Navan in February.
The Michael O'Leary-owned six-year-old added to that with a narrow win in a novices' event at Limerick three weeks ago, and he is the nap selection here despite the jump in class.
A handsome son of Anshan, Davy Russell's mount hasn't been authoritative in the manner of his victories this term, but the suspicion is that he's simply taken time to come to hand. With that in mind, there ought to still be plenty room for improvement.
The Grade Two sees a field of 12 do battle for the €26,000 winner's pot, with Ruby Walsh opting for Gagewell Flyer over Lambro of Willie Mullins' two contenders.
Lambro, which won tidily over three miles at Naas last time, may ideally need that half a mile further than he gets here. Nonetheless, he is an extremely unexposed horse, so it would be no surprise if Walsh's cast-off gave the selection most to do.
Gagewell Flyer will be comfortable over the trip, but softer ground suits him better, while Last Instalment's stablemate Pineau De Re is another that could make his presence felt. The eight-year-old has had injury problems but is running well, getting to within two lengths of Hidden Cyclone at Thurles in February.
Walsh is fancied to score on Mullins' Doctor Deejay in the www.tote.com Handicap Hurdle. Charles Byrnes' Aintree runner-up Jack Cool is a potential favourite in this.
Four times a winner since July, Russell's mount has shot up the handicap accordingly, competing off a 46lb higher mark than when recording the first of that quartet at Killarney. Doctor Deejay, on the other hand, is less prolific, but he has been a model of consistency and should be able to win off his current mark.
At Cork last month, he failed to stay three miles when fourth in a decent handicap hurdle. Previously, he was a fair third to Pittoni over the minimum trip at Leopardstown, so a first try at two and a half miles could be just what's required.
Tommy Carberry's Peak Raider has strong claims in the valuable handicap chase run in memory of the trainer's father-in-law Dan Moore.
Twice a winner over fences before obliging over hurdles at Leopardstown in February, Peak Raider competes off a 15lb higher mark than when landing a chase over course and distance in December.
Carberry's son Peter takes 5lbs off, but Peak Raider may need more cut in the ground, so Paul Cashman's Idarah is just preferred. That one has also crept up the weights, having run well to be second to Torphichen at Gowran Park last week.
However, good going suits him, so it would be no surprise to see him get involved again. Higher-rated opponents such as Psycho and Scotsirish must be respected, but Idarah will be hard to beat if he replicates the form of his Gowran effort off 10st 3lb.
Earlier, Tipperary-based handler Denis Hogan can cap what has been a fine season for him by steering Drive On Jim to victory in the two-mile, six-furlong handicap chase, while Rocky Wednesday gets the nod in the Weatherbys Ireland GSB Hurdle.
Gordon Elliott's gelding -- another that runs in the colours of O'Leary's Gigginstown Stud -- was third on his first completed hurdling start in a Grade Three at the Co Meath venue in February. He needs to reverse form with the runner-up Chaperoned now, but may have the scope to do so.