Tenacious Little King Robin set for winning return
Colin Bowe's tenacious front-runner Little King Robin returns from a short break at Punchestown this afternoon ahead of her date with destiny at Cheltenham next month.
The seven-year-old has been a revelation over the past 12 months, with a spree of 17 runs for her shrewd Wexford handler in 2014 yielding seven wins and as many placed finishes.
On her final two starts, Little King Robin was placed in Grade One company. If she runs to that level in today's mares' hurdle for Mark Walsh, she should make for the boat with a win.
Annie Power, clearly, is the mares' standard bearer, but she has had her problems this term, while there is no guarantee that she will prove as adept as her record-breaking former stablemate Quevega at going to Cheltenham without a recent run.
In that sense, the newly promoted Grade One could prove wide open, and Bowe has tailored Little King Robin's campaign around the race.
Last year, she went there without a run since the previous November and tired behind Quevega after leading two-out. This time, she was in the form of her life at the end of her busy year, only for Bowe to freshen her up after her third in the Hatton's Grace Hurdle in November. That could yet prove to be an inspired strategy.
Willie Mullins' Analifet and Jarlath Fahey's Jennies Jewel are the two most likely to keep her honest in today's eight-runner affair. However, Analifet has plenty to prove at this stage, and Jennies Jewel comes here in need of a confidence-boosting clear round.
Walsh, who retains a lead of eight over Paul Townend in the jockeys' championship, is also tipped to collect the preceding maiden aboard Tom Mullins' Oscar Knight. Sandra Hughes' Flight Plan and Alan Fleming's Boris De Blae are respected, but Oscar Knight looks the most reliable option.
The six-year-old progressed for his first two outings over flights to be second in both of his starts this year, losing little in defeat when outgunned by Hughes' Total Recall here earlier in the month, when the highly regarded Flat recruit Open Eagle was back in third. If Oscar Knight can build on that again, he is the one to beat.
In the opening maiden hurdle, the Boris De Blae team of Fleming, Barry Connell and Adrian Heskin get the nod to score with Investmentsuccess.
Another son of Oscar, this seven-year-old has a tendency to race freely, so it is no surprise to see him sport a hood for a first time now.
The form of Investmentsuccess' latest second to Velvet Maker at Cork reads respectably, and there is no great depth to his opposition here.