My Murphy to warm up for Aintree with Bobbyjo glory
A year after so nearly unearthing the Cheltenham Gold Cup winner, Fairyhouse's At The Races Bobbyjo Chase has a slightly less precocious look to it this afternoon.
On His Own romped home for Ruby Walsh in the €42,500 Grade Two in 2014, prior to just getting denied by Lord Windermere in a dramatic edition of the Prestbury Park showpiece.
This time, Willie Mullins, who has won three of the last four Bobbyjos, hasn't even got a runner in the race, though Gordon Elliott's 2013 victor Roi Du Mee tops the five-strong line-up.
Successful at Tramore last month, Roi Du Mee is one of three of these holding Grand National entries, My Murphy and Spring Heeled being the other two. He has to concede seven pounds all round, and, while it is not beyond Bryan Cooper's mount to do so, it is a tough ask.
The Jim Culloty-trained Spring Heeled and Liam Burke's My Murphy both appeal as more likely sorts for the National, and either could exploit today's weight concession to prevail. However, for all that Spring Heeled comes out best at the weights on official figures, he hasn't run since finishing fourth to Road To Riches in the Galway Plate in July.
That was a cracking effort from the Kim Muir Chase hero that confirmed his potential as a National contender, but the suspicion is that connections would be pretty satisfied with a pleasing run in defeat here, with the possibility of another outing to come at Cheltenham, where he has the option of the Gold Cup.
As a result, this might be a chance for My Murphy to get its head back in front for a first time since winning a valuable novices' handicap chase at Navan in March of last year.
Burke's Presenting nine-year-old was beaten just seven lengths in the Troytown, before leaving behind a middling Paddy Power Chase turn to finish second to Djakadam in the Thyestes, when The Job Is Right's last fence fall left him 19 lengths clear of the remainder.
A former course winner, My Murphy is an out-and-out three-miler that will relish these testing conditions, so he appeals as nap material to continue Robbie Power's fine run of recent form.
Power also gets the nod to collect on his only other ride of the day, Jimmy Two Times, in the two-and-a-half-mile handicap hurdle. Brian Hamilton's charge has progressed steadily over the past 12 months, finishing second twice over flights before winning readily at Clonmel in December.
On Jimmy Two Times' handicap bow off a rating of 118 at Leopardstown over Christmas, he was clear at the last when he finally paid the price for jumping markedly to his right. The handicapper gave him five pounds for his troubles, but he has the scope to justify that hike by making amends.
Mullins and Walsh could get among the winners with the frustrating Dogora in what is a moderate beginners' chase. Fifth in a valuable handicap off a mark of 138 behind the smart Foxrock at Leopardstown, Dogora has had seven tries over fences already. He is limited, but he should still prove superior to today's rivals.
While Kilcarry Bridge and Smokey Joe Joe are deserving of respect, they have been operating at a lower level. Earlier, a pitiable three runners go to post for the €42,000 Grade Two Bambury Bookmakers Hurdle that went the way of Mullins' Abbyssial last year.
Barry Connell's Auteuil winner Gwencily Berbas makes its debut for Alan Fleming under Adrian Heskin, while Elliott's Vercingetorix and Noel Meade's Lettre De Cachet re-oppose after latter finished in front when fifth in Grade One company at Leopardstown.
Lettre De Cachet clearly has the potential to build on that encouraging debut, but the suspicion is that Vercingetorix didn't show his true colours on that occasion.
It's possible that he has a preference for deeper ground than he encountered at Leopardstown, so the forecast heavy conditions here should be ideal for Davy Condon's mount.
There are only a couple of weekends racing before the Cheltenham festival and it is very encouraging to see so many former Irish point-to-pointers to the fore in the Cheltenham betting.
Faugheen in the Champion Hurdle, Monksland in the World Hurdle, Champagne Fever in the Champion Chase and Road To Riches in the Gold Cup ensure pointers are well represented in feature races each day.
Agents however have to continually source new talent and they will be heading to any of three meetings tomorrow, although the only four-year-old maiden is at Bennettsbridge in Kilkenny.
Colin Bowe again enters Jonniesofa, who was second last Sunday for the third time in four runs, and he will take beating here or in Killaloe where he also holds an entry.
In the mares' maiden the Philip Rothwell trained Taboo, who was third last time at Tyrella, could be the one to step up and open her account here while Daulys Anthem, who was second on his Borris debut for Pat Crowley, will be hard to beat in the novice riders maiden but he also holds an entry in Killaloe where he would also have a big chance.
At Killaloe where Derek O'Connor rode his first winner back in 2000 Seamus Spillane's Goulane Ruby could step up from her second placing last time to win.
The Donie Sheahan-owned and Mick Winters trained For Carmel could be hard to beat in the winners' race having been so impressive at Aghabullogue in winning his maiden. At Kildorrery Eugene O'Sullivan has chances in the mares maiden with The New Citizen who was disappointing lately but on her best form looks useful at this level and Vinnie Trenta in the confined maiden.
The latter has track form and was sixth on his points debut last time so could step up to take this contest.
Jim Culloty, who had a winner last Sunday at Cragmore, could saddle another this weekend with Vaxalco who won at Askeaton recently and has plenty of track experience to call on.
Number of the week
1002 If you blinked you missed it. Almost exactly 15 years after riding his first winner Derek O'Connor rode his 1000th point-to-point winner at Cragmore last Sunday but took the next two races and the Galway man is now on the 1002 winner mark having made history last weekend in becoming the first rider to ever reach such a figure.
Horse to follow
Death Duty, which took the one-year-old maiden at Cragmore last Sunday is out of a three times winning mare called Midnight Gift and looks to be a very exciting youngster for Pat Doyle and Gigginstown House.
Carrigeen Acebo has been a top-notch mare for the Lalor family this season and is going to be hard to beat in the Mares Open at Kilalloe under Liz Lalor, who is leading the Ladies' title race by two winners.
East Clare (H) at Killaloe 1.00
Duhallow (F) at Kildorrey 1.00
Kilkenny (F) at Bennettsbridge 1.00