Oscar Barton can steal spotlight under Russell
Wexford hosts a busy if unspectacular jumps card this afternoon before tomorrow's traditional 24-hour pre-Galway blackout.
Each of the last four champion jockeys are on duty during the eight-race spread, and it is the current title-holder Davy Russell who is taken to land the nap selection.
Of his three spins, Oscar Barton, trained by last year's Galway Hurdle-winning handler Paul Flynn, has most appeal in the Jim Whitty Memorial Handicap Chase.
The Ruby Walsh-ridden Bundle Of Fun has yet to fulfil its potential over fences since switching to Willie Mullins' care so cannot be quite written off, but Oscar Barton has more immediate promise.
Having won a maiden hurdle at Wetherby on the only previous occasion in 12 career starts that he encountered ground with the word 'firm' in the official description, the seven-year-old will relish the fast conditions here.
While he has yet to win in seven chasing starts, he was an encouraging third on his final run of the spring at Down Royal, before again posting an eye-catching third on good ground at Killarney in May.
Oscar Barton has since gone up 5lb but that only confirms the impression that he is progressive and he should collect over this suitable three-mile trip.
In the Poolcourt Ltd Beginners' Chase, Russell again has a chance on Paul Nolan's Rising Time. However, preferred is Pat Doyle's Annie Other under the trainer's son James.
A bumper and dual hurdle winner last year, Annie Other jinked at the road crossing before the final fence here in June. That seemed to distract her thereafter, though it was significant that she still drew 19 lengths clear of the remainder when finishing second to Great Oak, which has followed up with a second and a first on its next two outings. If Annie Other reproduces that now, she is the horse to beat.
Earlier, Rosscarbery native Brian Hayes might initiate a brace on Jack The Pirate in the maiden hurdle.
Third at Clonmel last month on its first start since February, John Cahill's six-year-old posted some very respectable efforts in fair company during the winter, so this looks a winnable objective if he improves for that.
In the two-mile-three-furlong handicap chase, Hayes rides Banna Beach for Seamus Neville, and a recent third over hurdles at Bellewstown suggested that a return to form might be imminent for the versatile nine-year-old.