Trifolium to swing it in the rain
If the unending rainfall is no longer enough to signal winter's imminent arrival, then the intended reappearance of the likes of Trifolium and Joncol at Punchestown surely is.
Yesterday's intriguing spread at the Kildare venue was lost after an overnight deluge left the track hopelessly waterlogged, so this afternoon's will surely need a slice of luck to survive a morning check (8.0). In the event that it does, it will be fascinating to see if Trifolium can show the sort of progression that one would expect from last year's productive novice campaign in the Ryan's Cleaning Events Specialists Hurdle.
The presence of Jessica Harrington's Citizenship, successful in the Boylesports.com Hurdle in January, should help to ensure that the six-runner Grade Three is not one-sided, but Trifolium is the horse with the most scope to improve. In a busy first term with Charles Byrnes, the Gigginstown Stud acquisition won three in heavy going.
Third on drier ground in the Supreme Novices' Hurdle at Cheltenham, Davy Russell's mount then fell just short to Alderwood at the Festival here in April. However, at the end of a long season, there was no shame in losing to Tom Mullins' up-and-comer.
The reigning champion jockey might also take what is an ordinary maiden hurdle on Mouse Morris' point-to-point winner Rule The World, though Magnanimity, his ride in the Racing Coverage Chase, is passed over in favour of Follow The Plan.
While the near three-mile Grade Three is also notable for the return of Paul Nolan's 2010 Hennessy hero Joncol for a first time since Christmas, Follow The Plan is a more reliable option. Notwithstanding his no-show under a big weight in the Galway Plate, a race that simply didn't suit, Oliver McKiernan's nine-year-old is a fair sort.
Victorious in the 2011 Gold Cup here, he finished last term with a famous triumph in the Aintree equivalent, before finding only China Rock too strong when bidding for back-to-back Festival wins. If he can replicate that level of performance on ground that he handles well, he is worthy of the nap vote under Tom Doyle.
In the Buck House Novice Chase, Morris' Baily Green, which has been in irresistible form, is difficult to oppose as he goes in search of his sixth win on the spin.