Sunday 19 November 2017

Sigma could ruin ruby's houdini moment

Richard Forristal

Richard Forristal

Tomorrow's Paddy Cork Grand National may not be the most vintage renewal of the marathon handicap chase, but it is nonetheless a competitive affair.

With Ruby Walsh getting the leg-up on Operation Houdini for the first time since he steered the horse to victory at Galway last year, Davy Fitzgerald's charge -- demoted to second having passed the post in front in this race two years ago -- will be popular with punters.

After Galway, Operation Houdini failed to complete in three outings over fences until finishing a never-dangerous ninth in the Kerry National last month.

Following a spin over hurdles in between, he will be a more potent threat now, and Walsh's presence in the saddle is a huge bonus. Nonetheless, Operation Houdini is still six pounds higher than when winning at Galway, and a fear remains that he will be vulnerable to something less exposed.

Sigma Lifestyle could be one such challenger. A winner of a novice over three miles in heavy ground at Punchestown on New Year's Eve, Noel Meade's Oscar gelding never quite fulfilled his potential after that last season.

However, he really caught the eye on his return at Gowran Park at the beginning of the month, just run out of it in third behind the in-form Royal Blood.

That was a decent race, with Tinakellylad, which finished eight lengths behind in fourth, going on to be third in the Munster National, while the sixth, Got Attitude, won at Galway on Monday.

Although he has gone up three pounds, Sigma Lifestyle could still be on the right side of the handicapper. He stays well, goes in the ground, and a feather-weight 9st 13lb gives him a great chance.

Also at Cork, Meade's classy Muirhead can be opposed in the Grade Three novice chase now that the ground is set to ride on the slow side. Farringdon is the obvious alternative, but it might pay to take a chance on Paul Nolan's Sam Adams instead.

While the son of Presenting has disappointed at times, connections have been patient, and it would be no surprise to see this brother to Snoopy Loopy come good now.

Irish Independent

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