Walsh and Rupert can make Cooper's choice irrelevant
BRYAN COOPER gets an early taste of the first-world problem that is having to choose between two live Gigginstown House Stud runners after discarding Make A Track in favour of Toner D'Oudairies at Thurles this afternoon.
Michael O'Leary, the immensely talented 21-year-old's new employer, hinted last Friday that Davy Russell would remain in the loop after being relieved of his No 1 position, and the reigning champion jockey duly has his first ride under the fresh regime aboard Make A Track in the Listed chase.
Make A Track's trainer Charlie Swan doesn't employ a stable jockey per se, though David Casey does ride the majority of his stable's representatives.
Cooper's new-found dilemma is a fine one to have, and it won't be lost on him that he was the chief beneficiary aboard the Gordon Elliott-trained Toner D'Oudairies when Russell preferred First Lieutenant -- a horse to which the brilliant Cork man's loyalty directly cost him three Grade One races and a Grade Three -- at Punchestown in October.
There is less at stake in this €26,000 four-runner two-and-a-quarter-miler, but, if both horses turn out, Make A Track wouldn't be without a chance of spoiling the initiation ceremony, as his recent stylish Limerick handicap success off 138 suggested that he remains progressive.
Toner D'Oudairies' latest second to Arvika Ligeonniere in the Clonmel Oil Chase was also a really fine effort, and he has 3lb in hand with Make A Track on official figures.
However, he is at his very best on decent ground, so, while the unique north Tipperary venue will doubtless ride as well as any track in the country could be expected to after all the rain that has fallen, it might instead be worth siding with Willie Mullins' runner Rupert Lamb.
Ruby Walsh's grey partner emerges only third best on figures off 142, but his easy victory at Naas in November confirmed that he is progressing well and he will love these conditions.
Cooper has a decent chance of getting his Gigginstown tenure off to a flyer aboard Philip Fenton's Desertmore Stream in the opening maiden hurdle, while Russell, who has realistic chances in each of the six races that he can ride in, gets the nod on Grainne O'Connor's handicap debutant Olor in the two-mile-six-furlong handicap hurdle.
The day's nap vote goes to Sizing Coal in the longer of the two maiden hurdles.
A smart pointer, Jim Dreaper's son of Presenting's debut fourth at Down Royal has been franked by the second and third winning since, so average improvement from that should do here.