Mengli Khan to atone for Leopardstown
With the exception of Mall Dini, all of the entries for the seven-runner Grade Three Total Event Rental (Kildare) Novice Chase at Punchestown today (1.0) come from the Willie Mullins or Gordon Elliott stable, highlighting how the top two are dominating all of the big races.
It's one of those contests where a realistic case could be made for almost every runner, and Elliott's The Storyteller will probably go off as favourite around 5/2.
He beat a couple of subsequent winners in a very good beginners' chase last time out at Fairyhouse including stablemate Sutton Manor, and his sound jumping suggested he has a good future over fences.
But at the prices, preference is for Mullins's Invitation Only, available at 11/4 early yesterday.
I know the yard thought highly of this horse a couple of years ago, but he failed to live up to his promise over timber.
His chase debut in November was nothing to write home about, he fell at the fifth, but just when it looked like he might prove disappointing, he put in a cracking run to win a beginners' chase at Navan in December.
On that display, connections will have their hopes raised and I'm confident he's got more improving to do over the bigger obstacles.
I backed Gordon Elliott's Mengli Khan in the Paddy Power Future Champions Novice Hurdle at the Christmas Festival at Leopardstown, but it turned out to be one of the most dramatic races of the year.
My selection crashed out and then we had Sharjah and Real Steel both fall, leaving Whiskey Sour to claim the prize.
I'm really hoping the fall was a once-off and he's tipped again on his reappearance in the Grade Two Sky Bet Moscow Flyer Novice Hurdle on the same card (2.10).
He'll be giving weight all around here but he's got loads of talent and has Grade One winning form in the book.
Once again, it looks like an Elliott/Mullins battle and Getabird is the obvious danger.
That was fancied for the 2017 Cheltenham Champion Bumper following two wins on that code, but was later ruled out because of injury.
A successful point-to-pointer, he had no problem winning a Punchestown maiden hurdle on his return to racing in December, although at odds of 2/5 no less was expected.
The feature at Fairyhouse tomorrow is the Bar One Racing Dan Moore Memorial Handicap Chase (2.35), and in what looks a wide-open contest, a chance is taken each-way on outsider The Game Changer for Elliott (pictured) under Kennedy.
He's often seen over hurdles too and I do admit that he's been fairly disappointing under both codes in his latest three races.
He's not the force of old, but he did win both a chase and a hurdle race in the autumn and has raised a few eyebrows more than once by coming back to form after a poor spell.
You're never really sure what you are going to get with him but that's reflected in his price, which is 25/1 at the time of writing. Mullins's Polidam is likely to go off as favourite around 5/2, although he's taking a step down in trip which I'm not sure will suit.
Jessica Harrington's Don't Touch It is the choice of Barry Geraghty and will also attract some support, although he's become a little inconsistent and was beaten at 6/4 in a minor event at Ballinrobe last time out.
A little earlier, Elliott's Mitchouka will almost certainly be an odds-on price for the should Promote Your Business At Fairyhouse In 2018 Hurdle (1.30) under Davy Russell.
But he couldn't cut it in Graded company in his last two races and I'm wondering if he might not be as promising as we first thought.
Stablemate Veneer of Charm gets the nod instead around 100/30. A useful sort on the Flat for Michael O'Callaghan, he was quite stylish when taking a juvenile hurdle on his jumps debut a couple of weeks ago, and may have more scope for improvement than the jolly.
Finally, I'm quite keen on Close Shave around 7/4 in the Irish Stallion Farms EBF Rated Novice Chase (3.35), having shown a liking for this ground.