Pittoni to bounce back with a bang
THE presence of Cheltenham-bound horses such as Sir Des Champs, Realt Dubh and Moon Dice adds a touch of intrigue to the post-race galloping at Leopardstown tomorrow, but there is no shortage of interest on the programme itself.
More than anything, it will be fascinating to see if Pittoni can return to form on his first start since disappointing behind Grandouet in the International Hurdle at Cheltenham in December.
Charles Byrnes' six-year-old faces half a dozen inferior-rated rivals in the two-and-a-quarter-mile conditions hurdle, the pick of which is probably Won In The Dark.
Sabrina Harty's representative has the benefit of its recent reappearance second to Cousin Vinny at Punchestown, and receives 10lbs from Pittoni, leaving him with just a pound to find on official figures.
While it's certainly not inconceivable that Won In The Dark could collect, Pittoni is fancied to continue the progress that he had been making prior to Cheltenham.
Successful in a handicap on this card in 2011, he then won twice on the Flat, before hacking up from Donnas Palm on his return to hurdling under tomorrow's jockey Barry Geraghty at Naas in October.
Next time, Pittoni found only Thousand Stars and Oscars Well too strong in the Morgiana Hurdle, so he should score again now if he recaptures that level of form.
Donnas Palm is equally hard to oppose in the Irish Stallion Farms EBF Novice Chase at the Foxrock venue, while the featured Carrickmines Handicap Chase could fall the way of Ted and Ruby Walsh. Colbert Station, unbeaten in two Leopardstown starts following his beginners' chase triumph over the minimum trip here at the end of January, is the father-and-son partnership's runner in what is a competitive €37,500 contest.
Off a first-time chasing mark of 131, their eight-year-old has plenty on his plate, but he gets in off just 10st 2lb, and the return to two miles and five furlongs will be to his advantage.
Roberto Goldback, second to Quel Esprit in the Hennessy Gold Cup last time, tops the weights with 11st 12lb in this, as Follow The Plan, fourth then, gets in off 11st 7lb.
Also engaged is Arthur Moore's 2011 Irish Grand National winner Organisedconfusion. A first-fence faller in the Leopardstown Chase, that one wouldn't be without a chance if he enjoys a bit more luck in running under Nina Carberry now.
Last year's McManus-owned Carrickmines victor Carrigmartin tackles the two-mile handicap hurdle that Pittoni won last year, but the same owner's Jessica Harrington-trained Jenari is preferred.
While the Walsh family's That'll Do Me, out of sorts at Punchestown in January, could also figure, Jenari is less exposed and has a touch of class.
On his two latest starts, the Limerick maiden winner has finished second to Cash And Go and Lyreen Legend respectively, so a first-time mark of 132 may not flatter Robbie Power's mount.
Later on, Jenari's four-year-old full-brother Jezki, successful on his racecourse bow here on Irish Champion Hurdle day, could double up for Harrington in a middling bumper.