Friday 15 December 2017

The Hurl to go on front foot

Damien McElroy

Runners are scarce enough in the main races at Limerick this afternoon with a mere seven acceptors between the opening two events, with champion owner Michael O'Leary's Gigginstown House Stud well represented nevertheless.

Michael Hourigan's Mr Cracker, which has already taken two prizes here over the larger obstacles, is the one the other three in the Greenmount Park Novice Chase will be aiming to turn over even if Adrian Heskin's mount failed to inspire in between at Cork.

While the five-year-old perhaps can be forgiven that disappointing Mallow effort as he turned out again a mere week after his initial success over fences, runaway Thurles winner The Hurl, which bowls along in front, might be a safer wager given the conditions.

Big Game Hunter and previous course winner Sounds Of Jupiter in O'Leary's maroon and white Westmeath county colours have to concede weight in the O'Kelly Bros Hurdle to Jonjo Walsh's Rory Anna, which has been competing with credit under both rules.

This could be a tricky opener, however, as there's no obvious pace to the race and presumably the O'Leary team will have a plan to maximise their assets, but if the business end evolves into a dash for the line Rory Anna could trump the pair.

Doneraile-based trainer Walsh and experienced claimer Eddie Power likewise could be on the mark later in the session when another of their fluent Cork soft-ground scorers Stony Grey Soil makes his seasonal return in the Guinness Handicap Hurdle.

Locally based False Messenger attempts to shoulder a hefty penalty for an easy Thurles victory last time out in this competitive affair and should be a factor at the finish, but Power's mount may be better equipped for what could be a taxing test of stamina.

Willie Mullins, who enjoys a decent strike rate at this venue, can share the training honours of the afternoon as he saves his best for the final races, with the often-placed Uncle Junior and Gowran Park runner-up Allee Garde likely to justify favouritism in turn.

Uncle Junior has plenty of experience over fences at this stage of his injury-blighted career and his belated opportunity to revisit the winner's enclosure has probably arrived, though there could be support as well for Gordon Elliott's younger Roi Du Mee.

French-bred Allee Garde, which went down by just a neck to Sword Of Destiny at Gowran Park, can also retrieve losses last time out in the bumper.

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