Stonemaster can make amends for Punchestown flop
Stonemaster can atone for his odds-on defeat at Punchestown two weeks ago when he returns to the Kildare venue this afternoon -- provided, that is, the fixture beats the elements.
Dessie Hughes' six-year-old never landed a glove on the impressive On The Way Out on his fencing debut, but he still ran an encouraging race to keep on for second. If he improves on that in today's two-and-a-half-mile beginners' contest, the Davy Russell-ridden gelding is undoubtedly the horse to beat.
Having recorded each of his five triumphs in soft ground or worse, today's testing going will hold no fears for Stonemaster, and, off 148, he is the highest-rated in the nine-runner field on hurdle figures.
The Noel Meade-trained Cross Appeal is next best on 128, but that one's three chasing efforts to date have left something to be desired.
Stonemaster's fellow Gigginstown Stud-owned Crash may be the nap selection's main danger. A winner of a point-to-point, a bumper and a maiden hurdle, Michael Hourigan's lightly raced representative has always looked a chaser in the making.
Having chosen wrongly in similar circumstances at Galway on Sunday, then, Russell will be hoping that Stonemaster's superior race fitness can save his blushes this time.
Michael O'Leary's maroon and white silks are also expected to be to the fore in both maiden hurdles on the card. In the two-miler, Make A Track debuts for Charlie Swan, having been purchased at Doncaster in May after winning two English bumpers.
Of his 16 rivals, the son of Hernando's chief threat may come from Reizovic, though that one disappointed slightly when third on its first try over flights at Fairyhouse. With little to recommend the remainder, this is a good opportunity for Make A Track.
Russell, whose current lead in the jockeys' championship stands at 12, then rides Beef To Heels for Gordon Elliott in the two-mile-six-furlong equivalent.
Cairdin, Dynamic Approach and Minella For Value all bring fair placed form into this, but Beef To Heels won a decent point-to-point in style on his only previous outing at Cloyne in March 2010, and he may yet prove a cut above what he faces today.
In the day's opening beginners' chase, Nearest The Pin is the standout contender for Tony Martin and Ruby Walsh. While the six-year-old is unproven in testing ground, he was immensely progressive in handicap hurdles last spring when winning at Fairyhouse and finishing second at the Punchestown Festival.