Mullins' Lamb to outfox rivals in valuable Listowel feature
Listowel's Ladbrokes Island Handicap Hurdle has been the preserve of modestly-sized stables in recent years but that might change this afternoon.
The €60,000 two-miler does feature some live contenders for less numerically prolific operations such as those of John Cullen, Garrett Power, Harry Kelly and Tom Gibney. However, it is the more established powerhouses of Willie Mullins, Aidan O'Brien and Tony Martin whose runners might dominate proceedings.
Martin will saddle three, including JP McManus's recent stylish Galway Flat winner Whatsforuwontgobyu, which had previously hacked up over flights at Sligo. Mark Walsh is pencilled in for him, with Barry Geraghty preferring McManus's O'Brien-trained top-weight, Draco.
Second to Rupert Lamb at Killarney last time, Draco is five pounds better off with him now. He has a lot to do under a considerable burden, but he kept on well after Rupert Lamb got first run the last day and isn't without a real squeak here.
Still, a chance is taken on Rupert Lamb reasserting his authority under Ruby Walsh. Mullins's grey was a smart 145-rated chaser that loved deep ground. When he became a little exposed over fences, it took a while for him to prove as effective back over flights.
That triumph at Killarney, though, indicated that he is now beginning to live up to his capabilities.
Off a mark of 124, he won with some authority on decent ground. Rupert Lamb is seven pounds higher now, but he is fancied to exploit that rating again, as he should be better still in these deeper conditions.
Mullins, who ought to win the bumper with the hat-trick-seeking Fugi Mountain, relies on the Walsh-ridden New Kid In Town and Westerner Lady in the Devon Inn Hotel three-miler that follows. Both have chances, but preferred is Colm Murphy's Catalaunian Fields.
The Gigginstown Stud runner skipped home at ease in a moderate Bellewstown contest last time, and the form was franked when the 18-length runner-up Diva Dawn won tidily at Galway.
A son of Fair Mix, Catalaunian Fields had shown plenty before that, so the he ought to be up to making a successful handicap bow now off a reasonable mark of 118 for 11st 1lb.
In the opening Flat maiden over a mile, Joe Murphy's Rainfall Radar is worth a look. A half-sister to the classy Group One winner Excelebration, Colm O'Donoghue's mount improved to be third at Tipperary last time. If she builds on that now, she will have a big say.