Nolan backs fit-again Joncol to get his season off on right foot
Last year's excellent Hennessy Gold Cup winner Joncol heads a small but select field of five in the featured contest on a decent programme at Thurles today.
The Listed John Meagher Memorial Chase has a generous first prize of €17,875. As well as Paul Nolan's returning eight-year-old, Cooldine takes his chance in the two-mile-six-furlong heat, as does Roberto Goldback.
A three-time winner over fences, the former Jessica Harrington-trained nine-year-old was on the verge of securing an unlikely triumph in the Punchestown Gold Cup back in May, before parting company with Robbie Power at the final fence. On his first start for Dessie Hughes and Bryan Cooper, he must have a real chance again.
Psycho and Clan Tara complete the line-up, but Joncol, with Barry Geraghty taking the reins, is expected to get his campaign off on the right foot, with Nolan hopeful that treatment to remove a bone spur in the interim will prompt a return to form.
In the novice chase, Willie Mullins' French import Twinlight is a standout contender among the 16 runners. Victorious in a Grade Three hurdle on her initial outing for Mullins at Fairyhouse over Easter, Paul Townend's mount was an encouraging third in the Champion Four-year-old Hurdle at Punchestown.
Townend is also fancied to collect on Mackey Boy in the handicap hurdle, while the day's nap selection is Mount Benbulben in the two-and-a-quarter-mile maiden hurdle. Tom Foley's Punchestown bumper winner Golanbrook could be a real threat under the champion jockey here, but Mount Benbulben sets the standard.
On his recent debut for Gordon Elliott's stable at Galway, he was unlucky to slip up on the Flat, so he can make amends now.