Shaneshill and Mullins set to dominate again at Thurles
Shaneshill will lend some quality to proceedings at Thurles today when the Supreme Novices' Hurdle runner-up makes its fencing bow in the opening beginners' chase.
Also second in the Champion Bumper at Cheltenham in March 2014 before winning the Grade One equivalent at Punchestown, Shaneshill split Douvan and Sizing John at Prestbury Park in the spring. That was a cracking turn, which he duly built on when hacking up in a Fairyhouse Grade Two over two-and-a-half miles at Easter.
Willie Mullins then opted to see if he would stay three miles at Punchestown, an exploratory foray that backfired when he tired into third behind Killultagh Vic. Still, that won't have done him any harm, and he is the standout candidate in this two-and-a-quarter-mile affair.
Shaneshill doesn't appear to be especially big, but he had a clean jumping technique over flights, so he ought to have as good a chance as any of taking to his new vocation under Ruby Walsh.
Walk To Freedom, which represents last year's winning partnership of Jessica Harrington and Robbie Power, may be the selection's chief threat. The Arcadio gelding has always been a little quirky, but he has ability.
The five-year-old ran a nice race to be third behind Outlander on his fencing bow at Punchestown, and he won't be far away if he improves a little for that experience.
Mullins could also plunder the two maiden hurdles and the conditions hurdle. Gigginstown Stud's Petit Mouchoir, such a convincing winner of the Goffs Land Rover bumper for Gordon Elliott, has its first outing for Mullins in the four-year-olds' contest. Also a stylish point-to-point winner in February, he should be far too good for his opposition.
In the older horses' equivalent, Gigginstown's Flash Of Genius reappears for a first time since winning a 2012 Punchestown bumper for Mullins. Now nine years old, he has switched to Mouse Morris's care, but it's hard to fancy him after such a lay-off.
Mullins has two chances with Haymount and Royal Caviar. Haymount could well be a leading player on the back of a taking bumper victory at Tipperary in the spring.
Nonetheless, Royal Caviar - which, it must be said, often looked a bit soft last term - warrants the benefit of the doubt in a first-time hood. Walsh's mount is a big horse that may have still been maturing, so he could be a different animal this term.
The partnership's Daneking is a similarly frustrating sort that can be given another chance in the €17,500 Rock Of Cashel Hurdle, as he should improve for his respectable second here last month, when he raced freshly.
Limerick handler Pat Neville has live contenders in the first and last handicaps with Rightville Boy and Mackey Boy, while the progressive Sizing Scorpion gets the nap vote in the two-mile handicap hurdle.
Henry De Bromhead's handsome charge won nicely at Fairyhouse, and is just five pounds higher now on a mark of 94. Jonathan Burke's partner appeals as being value for a mark of at least 100, so he can follow up in this competitive-looking contest.