ON a low-key card at Fairyhouse today, Davy Russell has the chance to increase his lead in the race to be champion jockey as his main rival, Ruby Walsh, journeys back from his weekend heroics in Japan.
Russell's current mark of 96 winners has him five clear of Walsh, and the reigning champion jockey has four booked mounts at the Co Meath venue – all of which have reasonable prospects. His best chance looks to be Toner D'Oudairies in the two-mile beginners chase.
Gordon Elliott's charge ran over hurdles at Cheltenham last month before finishing runner-up over the larger obstacles at Thurles. That second to Lord Ben is decent form and while Dul Ar An Ol should figure prominently, a bigger danger is from Jim Dreaper's Sizing Italy, which won a Sligo maiden hurdle last summer. However, he would probably prefer better ground.
Dreaper might start off on a better note as his Mr Cosmopolitan looks the one to beat in the opener. Last time out, Keith Donoghue's mount finished runner-up to Raise Hell and with this being only the six-year-old's third run, he looks to have plenty of scope.
The son of Basanta will have to find improvement as Wedding Present, Popmurphy, Giant's Quest and Moscow Chief all have their supporters. The last-named is of interest with Russell in the plate for Charles Byrnes. He was impressive in landing a bumper at Tipperary last October before disappointing over three miles on his hurdling debut. The six-year-old is likely to appreciate the return to two miles.
The three-mile handicap hurdle in which Russell is on Dactik has a reak lottery look about it, and a chance is taken on Status Update going one better than its second to Maccas Lad over this course and distance in February.
Russell's final ride is aboard Best Served Cold, which looks one to avoid in the two-mile-five-furlong beginners chase. The vote goes to Playtime Ben, whose second to Forty Foot Tom at Thurles shows him to be in good heart at least.