The Midnight Club makes most appeal in Thyestes
The rescheduled Red Mills Thyestes Chase meeting, Gowran Park's principal fixture of the year, must survive an early-morning inspection (7.30) to stage the inaugural sponsorship of this traditional contest by local horse feed manufacturers Connolly's.
Severe frost has been the problem this week, a situation not helped by foggy daylight conditions, so manager Margaret Fogarty and her colleagues need temperatures to rise overnight if the €90,000 showpiece is to proceed 48 hours late on heavy ground.
A maximum field of 18 plus three reserves has been declared again for the three-miler, with last season's principals Whinstone Boy, Hangover and Siegemaster being opposed by a trio on behalf of champion trainer Willie Mullins, headed by favourite Pomme Tiepy. Willie's formidable Closutton yard has established a fine record both in the Thyestes Chase and in races elsewhere on the card, and the indications are that the Red Mills promotion, as well as the Galmoy Hurdle, are his priorities today.
Backing up Paul Townend's Thyestes mount Pomme Tiepy are The Midnight Club, with Willie's nephew Emmet Mullins on board, and Ballytrim, ridden by Robert Power.
The money has come consistently for Pomme Tiepy in the ante-post market and this French-bred mare, which gets 10lb from The Midnight Club, put in an encouraging late run to take third behind Majestic Concorde in Leopardstown's Paddy Power Chase.
However, you have to go back to the end of November 2008 when she reverted to hurdles at Fairyhouse for her most recent victory, and at the price on offer today, she makes rather limited appeal.
Where last year's lightly-weighted hero Whinstone Boy fits in off his revised mark is anyone's guess, but the suspicion is that competition will be stiffer for Jimmy Mangan's charge this time in common with Hangover and Siegemaster, which tops the scale.
The Galmoy Hurdle, in which now-retired former Cheltenham Gold Cup hero War Of Attrition starred 12 months back, sees another Cotswolds winner Berties Dream likewise reverting to the smaller obstacles.
Should your luck be out in the feature, there's always the introduction of the €5 Tote Daily Double to fall back on based around the next two races, which might be destined for Down Royal and Tramore scorers Tharawaat and Waltzing Tornado respectively.
Red Mills Thyestes Chase (2.45)
Pomme Tiepy, rather than older stable companions The Midnight Club and Ballytrim, carries the burden of favouritism now after sustained support, pursued by Paul Nolan's previous Galmoy Hurdle winner Alpha Ridge, former crack hunter-chaser Agus A Vic and Rocco's Hall.
It's fair to suggest that Pomme Tiepy and Alpha Ridge need to bring improved displays to the table if they are to deliver the goods for their supporters. Whinstone Boy could make a bold bid to lead all the way again, but personal preference is for The Midnight Club as a realistic alternative.
Verdict: I'm a fan of The Midnight Club.
Galmoy Hurdle (1.35)
No dilemma here for Willie Mullins followers, as sound stayer Mourad can cope with another local contestant Luska Lad. The latter should perform well, while Berties Dream won't be fazed in the least by a slog in the mud.
Verdict: Don't desert Mourad now.
PJ Foley Memorial Novice Chase (3.20)
The absence of Quel Esprit, in particular, leaves the destination of this prize far from a straightforward task, even if odds-on Down Royal victor Tharawaat is entitled to be backed once more over the same trip and with the going bound to be tiring again.
The main threat may be Limerick casualty The Hurl.
Verdict: Tharawaat makes most appeal.