Roi Du Mee can rule in Tramore feature
Last year's Galway Plate heroine Blazing Tempo tackles the richest race of the domestic New Year's Day programme when she contests the €30,000 Holden Plant Rentals Chase at Tramore.
Willie Mullins' brilliantly consistent mare comes out best at the weights on official figures in the two-mile-five-furlong contest, and won't have any trouble with the testing conditions. She could well take plenty beating, but her latest third in the Hilly Way Chase at Cork was a bit tame, so she just might be worth opposing.
While Tranquil Sea, another reliable campaigner, is next best on ratings, it may pay to instead side with the form horse, Roi Du Mee which is bidding for a four-timer. In three carefully identified starts since October, the Gordon Elliott-trained seven-year-old has won Grade Three and Listed chases, before exploiting a lenient hurdle rating to hack up at Navan.
Under top-weight here, the Gigginstown House Stud-owned runner is 10lbs wrong with Blazing Tempo and marginally less so with Tranquil Sea. Nonetheless, he is in super shape, and appears to have the scope to overcome that theoretical disadvantage under Davy Russell.
The champion jockey could also collect on Popmurphy for Kildare handler Ross O'Sullivan in the Ani-Pets Veterinary Clinic Novices' Handicap Hurdle. This is a tricky-looking heat, but O'Sullivan's seven-year-old has been a model of consistency.
In his four starts since September, he has been placed respectively behind Flying Light, Miriam's Dream, Grange and Lough Roe Lady, all very solid strands of form.
The David Flynn Construction Maiden Hurdle is the first race of 2013. Bell Weir, which has shown decent form for local handler Eoin Doyle to be placed in two bumpers, has a live chance, but it's hard to ignore Mullins' Un Beau Roman.
On its latest bumper outing in France, which came more than a year ago, Paul Townend's mount was second to the smart Un Beau Matin. If it is as ready as many with similar profiles have been for the Closutton stable this term, it should go very close.
Meanwhile, Eddie O'Leary, racing manager to his brother Michael's Gigginstown operation, is keen to focus on the positives of the narrow defeats of First Lieutenant and Sir Des Champs by Tidal Bay in the Lexus Chase on Friday.
Mouse Morris' First Lieutenant improved on his Hennessy Gold Cup third to just be chinned on the line by the winner, while the Mullins-trained one-time Cheltenham Gold Cup favourite Sir Des Champs finished well to take fourth after making errors.
"We were happy with how he ran," O'Leary said of Sir Des Champs. "If he'd had a clear round, he would have been closer. All going well, he'll go for the Hennessy next. After the way he ran (in the Lexus), hopefully at this stage he still has a chance in the Gold Cup if we can sort his jumping out."
Davy Russell, who rode Sir Des Champs, added of the dual Cheltenham Festival winner: "He has a lot of stamina and, in hindsight, over the first three fences I maybe should have been a little bit closer and I wouldn't have depended on his jumping as much as I needed to. A couple of mistakes just took him out of it, but he showed good heart and stayed on well."
Of First Lieutenant, O'Leary reported: "It was the best run he has ever had at this time of year. In the past he has never really run well during the winter. He'll go straight to Cheltenham now, for either the Ryanair or the Gold Cup. Mouse likes to run his horses at Christmas and go straight to Cheltenham and they always go there in top condition."
John 'Shark' Hanlon has suggested that, while not ruling out a Gold Cup bid for his Lexus disappointment Hidden Cyclone, he would choose from a number of options over a shorter trip for the keen runner's next start.
Noel Meade's Pandorama, which beat only Hidden Cyclone in the Lexus, is believed to have pulled a muscle in its hind quarters on its first run since March 2011. The Co Meath handler hopes to have him right in time for a tilt at the Hennessy on February 9, though he stated that he still doesn't know if his Woodiesdiy.com Christmas Hurdle victor Monksland would have another run before a tilt at the World Hurdle in March.
"He has come out of his race really well, there's not a bother on him," Meade said. "I don't know if he'll run again before (Cheltenham) or not but the plan with him is to go back to Cheltenham for the World Hurdle. There are races at Gowran and Navan for him – but I'm not sure. We'll see how he is over the next week or two."