Mengli Khan is showing his true colours and looks ready to rule over Leopardstown rivals
Day two of the great Dublin bonanza resumes today with a couple of Grade Ones in store.
It won't be a race for betting, but all eyes will be on Willie Mullins' Min, the short-priced favourite for the Paddy's Rewards Club Chase, a race won by Douvan last year.
Henry de Bromhead and Mullins did well yesterday, but Gordon Elliott drew a blank. However, he has a number of solid entries this afternoon, most notably Mengli Khan for the Paddy Power Future Champions Novice Hurdle.
That horse is finally starting to shine following a disappointing season last term, but Willie Mullins' Real Steel won't go down easy in what could turn out to be a cracking race.
12.10 Paddy Power 3-Y-O Maiden Hurdle
Quite a head-scratcher to start off today, with most of these being ex-Flat horses which haven't raced over hurdles. The market could prove helpful but without much to go on, backers may end up siding with Willie Mullins' Mr Adjudicator around 5/2, a useful handicapper on the Flat which beat Binary Code in a handicap at Killarney in August.
But it wasn't the strongest race in the world and I wouldn't read too much into that form so preference is for Gordon Elliott's Kuraka, which was trading at 4/1 yesterday.
Another reasonably good horse on the Flat for Karl Burke, he's been placed twice over timber for Elliott.
Verdict: Kuraka has raced a couple of times over hurdles, showing good promise on his debut when second to subsequent Grade Three winner Espoir d'Allen, and his experience can give him the edge over Mr Adjudicator.
12.40 Paddy Power Cash Card Beginners Chase
In a six-runner field, Noel Meade's Le Martalin catches the eye at a nice price around 5/1 under jockey Sean Flanagan. A maiden hurdle winner at Galway, he finished a neck-second to Gordon Elliott's Dinaria Des Obeaux on his debut over fences, and that mare has since gone on to win a Listed Chase.
He unseated Sean Flanagan at the first fence in a beginners' chase at Navan having jumped badly left, but remains open to improvement.
Verdict: Bunk Off Early was out of his depth in the Supreme Novices' Hurdle at Cheltenham but might have something to offer over fences. He'll be short enough in the betting however, so Le Martalin gets the nod in an open contest.
1.15 Paddy's Rewards Club Chase
There are no certainties in racing, but this is all about Min which was priced at 1/3 yesterday evening. Willie Mullins' gelding has found himself in the spotlight now that Douvan has been ruled out for the season, and he looked as good as ever when getting the job done at Gowran by a country mile in November - although at a price of 1/9, no less was expected that day.
Verdict: A race to watch without a bet, Min can follow Douvan which won this last year at 1/8. Ball D'arc can follow the favourite home.
1.50 Paddy Power Future Champions Novice Hurdle
The Gordon Elliott-trained Mengli Khan will possibly be a shade odds-on but can justify the favourite's tag against his six rivals, three of which he's beaten already.
Elliott has said he was a little disappointed with him last year, but he's got him on the right road now, winning the Royal Bond Novices' Hurdle at Fairyhouse last time.
Willie Mullins' Real Steel can make sure it's not just a once-sided affair and the French import was impressive when winning a maiden hurdle at Thurles in November.
Verdict: Formerly trained by Hugo Palmer on the Flat, Mengli Khan is learning with every race and put in a polished performance to win a Grade One last time. The one to beat.
2.25 Paddy Power 'You Beauty' Handicap Hurdle
Shark Hanlon mixes it up over the Flat, hurdles and fences with Baby Jake and a mark of 118 here is fair under the in-form Rachael Blackmore.
It's over a year since he won over timber when rated 124 in a competitive Huntington Ladies Riders' handicap hurdle with Blackmore on board on that occasion but, as mentioned, he's been keeping busy in all codes since, and was runner-up last time in that same Huntingdon race by just a neck.
Verdict: Yaha Fizz is a reliable sort and is rarely out of the frame in this sphere, but the handicapper may be catching up. Baby Jake is quite versatile and looks a good alternative to score here at odds of around 6/1.
3.0 Paddy Power Chase
Polidam get a tentative vote in a tricky race to figure out. Willie Mullins' eight-year-old beat his odds-on stablemate Acapella Bourgeois in the Grade B Foxrock Handicap Chase last time, and I suspect we've not yet seen the best of the gelding.
He has some graded experience from France, and odds of 5/1 seem about right. Oscar Knight is another one to consider from Thomas Mullins' yard under Mark Walsh.
Verdict: Third in this race last year, Oscar Knight won a race over hurdles lately and can go close if transferring some of that form to fences. But likely favourite Polidam put in a career-best performance when winning a big handicap at Navan recently, and should have more to come.
3.35 Paddy Power Games INH Flat Race
Captain Cj has won a couple of point-to-points and can send punters home smiling in his second race under rules, priced in the region of 3/1.
He wasn't disgraced when third in a bumper at Fairyhouse recently and he should appreciate the step up in trip.
Carefully Selected, who has yet to race under rules but has also shown good form in points, also has strong claims.
Verdict: Point-to-point form is never guaranteed to transfer over but Captain Cj looks the pick of the bunch in this contest having warmed up at Fairyhouse earlier this month. Carefully Selected won't be far off, but looks a little short in the betting in what appears to be an open race.