Preists up against it in treble bid
A unique place in the Tendrleen Thyestes Chase roll of honour awaits top weight, Preists Leap, this afternoon should Cork trainer and joint-owner Tom O'Leary's star recruit complete a treble at Gowran Park.
The highlight of the jumping schedule at the Kilkenny venue, which is sponsored for the first time by local firm Connollys of Goresbridge, has attracted a maximum field of 18 headed by O'Leary's money-spinner.
For the past two seasons, only the course bookmakers and the gelding's immediate connections have been celebrating following the feats of Philip Enright's mount in defying successive odds of 20/1.
But the treble ambitions of the 10-year-old, which revels in the testing conditions, which he's bound to encounter once more today, could be foiled on this occasion by another Cork-based challenger -- Footy Facts.
Kerry-born Enright has opted to remain loyal to Kinsale handler Robert Tyner's versatile sort which comes here in good heart after an encouraging defeat of Hardy Eustace over timber at Punchestown last month.
While his welter burden won't be any help to Preists Leap in the hands of new partner John Cullen, the same could be said of the 20lb hike which ante-post favourite Beroni incurred for a fluent Troytown Chase success.
That renewal of the Navan contest last November was a grief-stricken affair in which Beroni prospered greatly under Paul Townend before readily extending his winning sequence at Punchestown over hurdles.
Yet to make the Thyestes Chase breakthrough, Ruby Walsh is aboard Beroni this time with his champion trainer Willie Mullins saddling no less than five hopefuls in search of a fourth victory at his home course.
Tony McCoy makes the day trip from England to link up principally with Arbor Supreme, third for the Mullins yard last year, as Townend switches to Ballytrim which is at his best over extreme distances.
Siegemaster and Paddy Pub, second and fourth to Oscar Time in the Paddy Power Chase at Leopardstown after Christmas, could find second-last fence casualty Lochan Lacha emerging as a greater force this time.
If there is to be another bookmaker/Cork-orientated upset, Jimmy Mangan's Whinstone Boy might just be the one to fit that bill on the basis mainly of his Thurles defeat of Powerstation earlier in the campaign.
However, personal preference is for a seemingly revitalised Footy Facts which is very much at home in the mud and is rated 5lb lower over fences than hurdles.
Even if his mob-handed Thyestes challenge fails, Mullins should still reward his followers at either end of the card courtesy of Secant Star -- which fell in a clear lead at Leopardstown -- and Fairyhouse bumper winner Paul Kristian.
Youngest brother Tom can get in on the act as well when Oscar Dan Dan renews rivalry with his Leopardstown conqueror Powerstation on 5lb better terms in the Alo Duffin Memorial Galmoy Hurdle.