Roi Des Francs primed to be king of Clonmel for Cooper
UNLIKE last week, there should be no problems with the conditions for today's deferred card at Clonmel, where an interesting novice hurdle contest takes centre stage.
With a first prize of over €20,000 up for grabs, the lucrative Surehaul Mercedes-Benz Novice Hurdle has, predictably enough, attracted a competitive field of progressive youngsters, with Willie Mullins double-handed.
The champion trainer runs both Measureofmydreams and Roi Des Francs - two Gigginstown House Stud-owned geldings with plenty scope for the future - and the owner's stable jockey, Bryan Cooper, has chosen the latter, despite the arguably stronger claims of his stablemate.
In the hands of Ruby Walsh, Measureofmydreams turned over the odds-on Milsean, which Cooper chose ahead of the winner, at Thurles last time and that is strong form compared to Roi Des Francs' maiden hurdle win at the same track last month.
However, Cooper clearly believes that his mount has more potential for improvement and as a result, Roi Des Francs looks set to go off favourite.
The one likely to challenge him at the head of the market and on the course is Kauto Grand Mogol, which will aim to give trainer Liz Doyle a pick-me-up after her stable star Le Vent D'Antan suffered a fatal fall at Leopardstown on Sunday.
Related to the legendary Kauto Star, the seven-year-old was a smart bumper performer last term and has won two of his three starts over jumps, the only blot coming when he was fourth to Free Expression in the Monksfield Novice Hurdle at Navan in November.
Doyle has put a line through that run, and Kauto Grand Mogol got back to winning ways with a facile victory at Thurles in December. If he jumps as fluently on this occasion, Brian O'Connell's mount is certain to be involved in the finish.
Other contenders include Colin Bowe's Shantou Flyer, second to Free Expression in Navan, the Noel Meade-trained Russian Bill and Eddie Harty's highly-regarded Fletcher, but Roi Des Francs gets a tentative vote based on Cooper's judgment.
The Kerry jockey rides his father's Lucky William in the conditions chase, but it's a while since this former Punchestown winner showed any semblance of form and the vote goes to the Mullins-trained Turban. The eight-year-old has failed to fire so far this season, but this is a drop in class which he should be able to take advantage of.