Wikaala threat to Harrington's hopes
Wexford and Dundalk provide the domestic action this evening, with Wexford hosting a full National Hunt programme for the first time since the second day of its October meeting was abandoned after track problems resulted in the deaths of two horses.
Remedial work has been carried out on the racing surface in the meantime and, while the chase course was not quite ready for use at Wexford's most recent meeting, track officials are confident that it is now fully fit for purpose. With every one of today's seven races on the card boasting maximum fields, clearly that is a view widely supported within the industry.
The beginners' contest looks the more interesting of the evening's two chases. Jessica Harrington has two reasonable chances in this courtesy of Paradis De Thaix and No One Tells Me. For The Staff is another to consider for Willie and Emmet Mullins, but Wikaala is the horse to beat. On his first run since November at Downpatrick last month, Gordon Elliott's charge split Fosters Cross and Newmill over flights, so he will be a real danger reverting to fences.
Farmaland, a winner at Down Royal last time, is fancied in the handicap chase, while local handler Colin Bowe is well represented in both the three-mile handicap hurdle and the bumper. While yet to train a winner on the track in 2011, Bowe's horses hit form this time a year ago, and Model County Lass appeals under in-form claimer Mick Doran in the hurdle race.
Bowe's recent point-to-point winner Minnie Maguire cannot be discounted in the Knockhouse Stud Mares' Bumper, but preference is for his Tango Moll. Barry O'Neill's mount should improve on her third over course and distance in March.
At Dundalk, She's A Queen may be the pick of the day. Joseph O'Brien will have to work to claim off 9st on his father's charge in the fillies' maiden, but She's A Queen ran with real credit when third on her debut here a fortnight ago.
Bible Black should also build on his promising debut for Ger Lyons in the opening juvenile maiden, while Sounds Of Thunder can provide Elliott with a first success of the Flat campaign in the 10-furlong handicap. Based on his form in England before switching to Elliott, Saturday's Tramore hurdle winner is well treated.