Mullins' Daneking can reign supreme for Ruby at Thurles
Thurles today opens its gates for the fledgling jumps season but the track's famously resilient surface is for once proving counterproductive.
The indomitable clay-based turf enables the north Co Tipperary venue to race relentlessly throughout the winter. However, so absorbent is its drainage system that, even with the few millimetres of overnight rainfall that was forecast, ground conditions today will likely remain good to firm.
Consequently, this afternoon's field sizes are small, with the two scheduled handicaps the only races eligible for standard each-way betting terms. The €17,500 Premier County Hurdle is the most valuable prize on offer.
Paul Fahey lost one of the stars of his Kildare stable when Lots Of Memories was fatally injured in the Kerry Grand National, an incident that proved doubly cruel, with Owega Star, stable stalwart of the trainer's brother Peter, also euthanised after being brought down.
He'llberemembered is another of Fahey's most venerable campaigners. He has won today's feature event for the past two years, and returns at 12 years of age in his quest for a hat-trick.
While he has been allotted between four and six pounds more than his four rivals, that burden is eased by Paddy Kennedy's five-pound claim.
Moreover, He'llberemembered comes here still in fine heart, recently dead-heating at Down Royal to claim a belated first Flat win. All told, he comes here with plenty to offer, but he faces a couple of potentially formidable rivals. The Galway Hurdle third Ted Veale is the most obvious threat as the highest rated on duty. However, preferred is Willie Mullins' sole runner on the card, Daneking, a free-going sort that might just relish the quick ground.
A casualty three-out when clear at Cork on August 30, Daneking was just a couple of lengths behind He'llberemembered at Punchestown in December. He is nine pounds better off now, so the six-year-old appeals as nap material to make amends under Ruby Walsh.
The champion jockey should have an even easier time on the Gordon Elliott-trained Miss Dinamic in a poor mares' chase that gets proceedings under way. Elliott's Georges Conn also ought to justify long odds-on status for Bryan Cooper in the beginners' chase over two and three-quarter miles, having run respectably to be second to Jarob and Waaheb on his last two starts.
In the bumper, Mags and Patrick Mullins can score with Dani Theatre, which finished a decent third on its Clonmel bow.