Tullintain can collar the Bishop in Thyestes
Willie Mullins relies solely on the top-weighted Bishopsfurze in his quest for a record-equalling fifth triumph in today's Goffs Thyestes Chase at Gowran Park.
Although it is a competitive edition of the prestigious three-mile handicap with a maximum field of 18 due to start, on paper it is one of the weaker renewals in recent years. Bishopsfurze's rating of 138 is the lowest to merit the top spot since 2006.
As such, despite a burden of 11st 7lb, the unexposed eight-year-old may have a big say under Ruby Walsh, who still seeks his first victory in the €80,000 event.
Twice a winner over fences as a novice, including in the sort of testing going he will get here, Bishopsfurze scored in game style on his seasonal bow over hurdles at Thurles.
He will be spot-on for this now, but the suspicion is that he might lack the class to give weight away all round. John Halley's Outlaw Pete, which ran out at the last fence in the Cork National when bang in contention, could have as little as 9st 9lb to carry if the trainer's son Josh can claim his full 7lb allowance.
A cross-country winner at Cheltenham in December, the JP McManus-owned nine-year-old relishes a stamina test. Gordon Elliott's Davy Condon-ridden Tarquinius falls into a similar bracket, but may be on the wrong side of the handicapper by now.
Off 10st 6lb, which precludes Davy Russell from doing the steering, Paul Nolan's Gigginstown Stud-owned Panther Claw, a dour recent winner at Punchestown, is an improver worth considering.
Toon River, representing Mary Louise Hallahan and last year's successful rider David Casey, is another novice that appeals, but the 2012 runner-up Tullintain gets the nod for the win. Last term, Robert Tyner's 10-year-old was second to Seabass at Limerick prior to this, and he filled the same spot in the same race this time.
Harpsy Cord would have won that day had he not fallen at the last fence, when he hampered Tullintain into the bargain. That may have cost Tullintain the win but, either way, it was a fine prep over what was an inadequate two-and-a-half-mile trip.
In 2012, only On His Own, which turned out to be in a different league, bettered the staying-on Tullintain here. Off just a 2lb higher mark now for 10st 8lb, and with first-time blinkers and conditions to suit, Tyner's charge looks primed to go one better in the absence of anything as remotely precocious as last year's hero.
Should Tullintain prevail, Tralee native Philip Enright would match Casey's three wins in the race following back-to-back triumphs on Preist's Leap in 2008 and 2009.
Tyner's shrewd Kinsale stable might also take the bumper with Kandinski, while Bog Warrior is napped to account for Zaidpour in the Grade Two Galmoy Hurdle.
At Punchestown in December, Tony Martin's charge slammed Solwhit to make it two from two since switching back to hurdles. That form was shown in a positive light courtesy of Solwhit's win last weekend, so it's hard to look beyond Russell's mount.
Gordon Elliott's fellow Gigginstown-owned Un Beau Matin is an up-and-comer that could figure, but Zaidpour is the selection's main danger.
A Grade One winner when denying Monksland at Fairyhouse in December, Mullins' French-bred was second to Noel Meade's rising star when they clashed again at Leopardstown over Christmas.
However, the champion trainer is unlikely to depart empty-handed. He and Walsh team up with facile Limerick winner Dogora in the Nugent Spirit 25 Horsebox Hurdle, and the grey should be able for Sabrina Harty's Dalasiri, another grey that was the subject of a spectacular gamble at Cork last time out.