Nagle's Zardsky set to make light work of Cork showpiece
Last year's Galway Plate hero Bob Lingo must shoulder top-weight of 11st 8lb on his first visit to Mallow for tomorrow's Paddy Power Cork Grand National.
Tom Mullins' JP McManus-owned 11-year-old faces a stiff task in the gruelling three-and-a-half miler, which sees a total of 18 runners vie for a share of the €50,000 spoils.
McManus has better prospects with Wise Oscar, Tom Horn and Sword Fish, while Noel Meade's still unexposed Downpatrick winner Ipsos Du Berlais looks the pick of the Gigginstown House Stud duo under Davy Russell.
As ever, it is a wide-open affair, but it may pay to stick with Zardsky, whose local handler TJ Nagle saddled Alickadoo and The Bishop Looney to famous victories in 2008 and 2011.
Second on his handicap bow off 116 at Galway in October 2012, Zardsky then performed creditably to be fourth in last year's renewal of this off 118.
A couple of placed efforts were the best he could manage off higher ratings thereafter, but he has lots of appeal now that he has dropped to 115 since he was last seen pulling up at Listowel in June.
Indeed, given that his seasonal reappearance was possibly his best run last term, the fact that he comes here fresh could be a real positive.
With that in mind, at just seven years of age, Zardsky has scope to improve and have a big say under Eddie O'Connell (pictured below). Indeed, he appeals as nap material off just 10st 2lb.
The Grade Three novice chase is another cracker, with Golden Wonder, Road To Riches, Rogue Angel, Sizing Machine, Sizing Rio and Darroun all legitimate players. Fancied, though, is Darroun's Willie Mullins-trained stable-mate Felix Yonger.
A decent novice hurdler, Ruby Walsh's mount had White Star Line behind when recording a smooth chasing debut victory at Punchestown in May.
Given that the second has since won twice – including the Kerry National – that form is hard to beat.
With Russell opting for Horrendous Hulabaloo over Somethingwonderful in the equivalent hurdle, Bryan Cooper gets the nod to make the most of the opportunity on the latter Dessie Hughes-trained Punchestown winner, but Russell has probably got it right in choosing Eoin Griffin's exciting Azorian in the EBF maiden hurdle.
Up at Leopardstown, the Flat season concludes with a competitive spread, though champions-elect Aidan and Joseph O'Brien are absent at the Breeders' Cup in Santa Anita. Seamie Heffernan could make the most of his opportunities on the likes of Blue Hussar, Francis Of Assisi and Mekong River, with Bayan tipped in the grand finale.
Of particular interest is the fact that Gordon Elliott has opted to fly in Silvestre de Souza to partner his lightweight in the long-distance event, which has been renamed the Movember Handicap in support of the men's cancer charity initiative.
Last seen on the Flat finishing a head second to Curley Bill at Galway, Bayan has the quality to validate the novel booking.