Rupert Lamb looks ready to put extra pep in Mullins' step
Champion trainer Willie Mullins heads for Naas with a potent-looking team this afternoon, and Rupert Lamb is napped to get proceedings off to a flying start for him under Ruby Walsh in the opening conditions chase.
This five-runner two-mile heat is an intriguing little contest, with Paul Nolan's improving Dick Dundee seeking to complete a hat-trick in less than three weeks, and Arthur Moore's still unexposed Irish Grand National third Home Farm making its seasonal return.
Nolan's stout stayer Sweeney Tunes, which finished an honourable fourth in the prestigious Fairyhouse Easter feature, will strip fitter for its recent third-placed return at Wexford, and the field is completed by Noel Meade's talented but frustrating Dylan Ross.
When the Graham Wylie-owned Rupert Lamb was last seen winning at Navan in April, it was Dylan Ross that he saw off in game fashion.
In theory, off five-pound better terms, Dylan Ross should have a chance of turning that form around now, but the suspicion is that Rupert Lamb will again prove superior.
The grey seven-year-old has run just five times for his Co Carlow-based handler. He took a while to show his true colours, but the manner in which he landed his final two completed starts was encouraging, and this trip, on the sort of soft ground that he will encounter here, appears to be his optimum conditions.
Shaneshill gets the nod in the bumper for the same owner-trainer combo under Patrick Mullins, while Turnandgo could take the maiden hurdle for the stable. Gigginstown Stud's point-to-point-winning five-year-old secured two bumpers at his leisure in the spring.
He may need to be as good as he looked then to account for The Tullow Tank here, but there's every chance he will deliver on his promise for Davy Russell.
The Gigginstown firm also get the nod to secure the beginners' chase with Meade's Road To Riches, a classy prospect that had an interrupted time of things last term.
Earlier on, the champion trainer will saddle the dual Grade One winner Diakali in the Grade Three Fishery Lane Hurdle, which has attracted a small but select field.
In opposition will be Sabrina Harty's Dalasiri and the Dessie Hughes-trained Art Of Payroll which caught the eye with a smooth victory in a recent Cork maiden hurdle but, on this occasion, they are all opposed with Jessica Harrington's progressive Mr Fiftyone.
As a free-going front-runner, Diakali might be vulnerable on its reappearance, and Harrington spoke of aiming Mr Fiftyone at the Royal Bond Novice Hurdle after he strode 10 lengths clear on his first hurdle start at Fairyhouse.
An impressive bumper winner on his track bow at Gowran Park previously, Robbie Power's mount would need to be beating Diakali when he is receiving 11lbs if he is to justify Grade One aspirations.