Mullins' Arctic Fire can prove too hot to handle for rivals
A two-mile novice hurdle that sees Noah Webster bid to continue Aidan O'Brien's unlikely renaissance as a jumps trainer is one of the day's better domestic heats at Gowran Park.
Noel Meade's Ange Balafre and Charlie Swan's The Game Changer are others that bring winning form to the table, but fancied to emerge on top is Willie Mullins' Arctic Fire.
Bought for a six-figure sum after running away with an 11-furlong Flat race in France last year, Paul Townend's mount made a smooth hurdling bow at Tipperary last month.
Sporting a hood due to concerns he might race keenly, Arctic Fire trounced Enchanted Forest and last week's Wexford winner Diyala at his leisure. He is clearly a useful prospect, so it will be a surprise if he doesn't step up to the plate again this afternoon.
The 2011 champion jockey might also take the mares' handicap hurdle on Paul Moloney's All The Way Home, though he is passed over aboard Dogora in the beginners' chase. Mullins' four-year-old receives most of a stone from each of his six rivals.
That could make him very hard to beat, but Too Scoops, Hunting Party and My Murphy all have the benefit of fencing experience. Liam Burke always does well with his few on the track, and My Murphy appeals as nap material to add to that fact on his return here.
A point-to-point and triple hurdle winner, My Murphy ran well against some decent opposition last term, including when fourth behind Home Farm, Marasonnien and White Star Line at Fairyhouse in February.
While things subsequently went against him on his last couple of starts, he should have the class and savvy to collect for Robbie Power now.
In the preceding €20,000 conditions race, the frustrating Oscars Well is taken on with Savello. Just four line out in this, and Tony Martin's seven-year-old is surely the most progressive, having come of age over fences on his final two starts in the spring. When last seen winning at Leopardstown in March, Savello had The Real Article, Dylan Ross and Special Tiara all behind.
That form reads quite well now, so he has the profile to topple Oscars Well if he continues to improve under Bryan Cooper.
Meanwhile, connections of Simenon will be satisfied if their charge claims a share of the €4.5m prize pot on offer in the Japan Cup at Tokyo racecourse tomorrow.
The six-year-old was last seen finishing a creditable fourth in the Melbourne Cup earlier this month, beaten just two and a half lengths by Fiorente over two miles.
He will be dropping back to a mile and a half this time – the same distance at which he finished third in a Caulfield Group Two on his Australian bow. Mullins has had his nephew Emmet supervising Simenon's preparations and the team are delighted with how the gelding has taken his travels.
"Emmet is over there with him and he's been delighted with the way he settled in and apparently his coat looks great," said the trainer's son Patrick.
"He did a bit of work during the week that was as good as anything he did in Australia, so everyone is happy with him. When we went there we didn't envisage taking on Gentildonna (last year's winner). If we can get a share of the good prize money we'll be delighted."
Joshua Tree will be lining up in the Grade One event for the second time having finished 10th when trained by Aidan O'Brien in 2010.
The six-year-old is now in the care of Ed Dunlop and was last seen winning the Canadian International at Woodbine for the second time last month.
Dunlop said: "He looks to be moving well, his weight's good and he looks well for the time of year. We're all happy, but not happy with the draw (17).
"An outside draw will change plans, but I hope there is good pace – we'll leave it to the jockey (Johnny Murtagh) because he's world-class.
"I would ignore Joshua Tree's previous run here in the last Japan Cup because it was at the end of a pretty hard season."