Walsh to land the nap on Mozoltov
Ruby can cruise to victory aboard Mullins' charge in his first Gigginstown assignment of the post-Russell era
Ruby Walsh falls in for his first ride on a Gigginstown Stud-owned runner since Davy Russell lost the coveted position as first jockey when he partners the exciting Willie Mullins-trained Mozoltov at Naas tomorrow.
A field of seven has been declared for the Irish Stallion Farms EBF Novice Chase, but Mozoltov and JP McManus' Noel Meade-trained Ned Buntline should be the only two that matter.
Third on its Navan fencing bow behind the smart Ballycasey, Ned Buntline then improved to land a decent beginners' contest at the same track. A bumper and maiden hurdle winner last term, the six-year-old remains open to further improvement.
However, Mozoltov had him well back in third when he denied Don Cossack by a length at Punchestown last February and you couldn't but be impressed by his stylish switch to the bigger obstacles at Fairyhouse last month.
The Kayf Tara eight-year-old jumped cleanly and cruised home to take his record to five wins from eight outings, with his last defeat coming when third to Champagne Fever and Melodic Rendezvous in the Champion Bumper at Punchestown in 2012.
He should have the quality to add to that fine tally as the nap selection now.
Chiltern Hills gets the nod to make a successful chasing bow for Mullins and Walsh in the mares' beginners' chase, while the all-conquering firm should also take the featured Slaney Novice Hurdle.
Mullins has declared today's intended Sandown runner Upazo in that Grade Two along with Briar Hill, as Meade's Very Wood and Dessie Hughes' Apache Jack complete the paltry line-up for the €37,500 contest.
Gigginstown's Very Wood is doubtless a horse with a long-term future, but it's impossible to see beyond the still unbeaten Champion Bumper hero Briar Hill.
In seeing off Gigginstown's Azorian in a farce of a Grade One at Navan last month, Walsh's partner was probably less impressive than his prohibitive odds suggested he might have been.
Still, he has never been inclined to do any more than he needs to, and the chances are that he will do enough again here.
The reigning champion jockey Russell, who goes into the weekend 39 winners adrift of Walsh in the riders' championship, has just one booked ride at the Co Kildare venue, but it is fancied to be good enough to score.
Arthur Moore will give the Youghal native the leg-up on Treat Yourself in the Joe Byrne Memorial Handicap Chase, a race that sees Denis Hogan's 12-year-old Luke's Benefit try to complete a quick hat-trick after wins at Fairyhouse and Punchestown last month.
While Treat Yourself's prospects are less obvious, he appeals as one that could do better than he has done of late now that he switches to handicap company.
In his third start over fences at Clonmel in early December, the seven-year-old ran nicely when a slightly fortuitous second behind Is Herself About. A dual hurdle winner, he is in here off a 10lb-higher rating than that off which he won his second hurdle race just over a year ago, but he has the scope to justify that assessment.
The opening maiden hurdle is an intriguing contest, with Chute Hall and Concordin live contenders if they both line out.
Still, it is Christy Roche's returning McManus-owned Moonlight Boy that is preferred, as he looked particularly smart when quickening clear of last week's Leopardstown maiden winner Double Irish on his Cork debut in April.