A somewhat perplexing Grade Two Normans Grove Steeplechase forms the feature event at Fairyhouse this afternoon.
After going through the five runners, one is inclined to assume that the distance printed on the race card is actually erroneous: all five could be said to want further, as much as three miles. Mansony is the possible exception, but he has clearly regressed.
What the market makes of Rare Bob, which finished fourth in the Irish National last year, will be interesting on his seasonal bow. However, he will likely need the run and surely will be vulnerable to faster foes.
Willie Mullins' Scotsirish could go off favourite and is readily preferred to stablemate Snowy Morning, but Noel Meade may provide the answer in Aran Concerto. He won his maiden hurdle on the bit over two miles and, while his trainer has suggested that today's race serves as a means towards improving the gelding's confidence at jumping, it is of intrigue that Meade has chosen to do this over such a short trip. Normally he is a very sound leaper.
This is a captivating card, particularly for punters so starved of recent action. Cousin Vinny will be the banker of the day for many and he can get off the mark over fences in the beginners' chase.
A sound second to Roberto Goldback last time, Mullins' son of Bob Back may have the measure of Kimberlite King, which has yet to reach his potential as a chaser. Quotes of 33/1 on Betfair for the RSA Chase, which is his intended target, are tempting about Cousin Vinny. An Cathaoir Mor should be thereabouts too.
Ruby Walsh and Mullins are also fancied to win the first, with Arvika Ligeonniere making his hurdling bow after running far too freely last time in a bumper. Rivage D'Or, his main rival, has become a shade frustrating.
Cillin Hill apart, anything could win the novices' hurdle but the tough Grange Alainn is probably the one to beat. The Hurl is not a certain stayer, while Pay The Bounty is interesting at big odds.
Bronx Boy is relatively unexposed and no more than a hopeful pick in a moderate handicap hurdle. Though Saddlers Storm faces better rivals in the handicap chase, he makes plenty of appeal. Gormanstown Cuckoo can win the finale for Colm Murphy.
Thurles offers a fascinating undercard, with Rhyl Accord the big attraction in the novices' hurdle. His stamina has to be taken on trust, but so then does Thegreatjohnbrowne's. Rhyl Accord is eight years old but very lightly-raced.
Michael O'Leary has sound prospects of at least one winner and Sounds Of Jupiter is all the more interesting in the opener because he gets weight from previous winners. Far Away So Close touched 1/33 in-running before faltering badly on the run-in at Navan in December, but Thurles is not a particularly stiff track. Moreover, he was beaten then by subsequent Grade One scorer, Hollo Ladies.
Golden Sunbird, Kylbeg Krystle, Undergraduate and Rockfield Abbey all have the recent form to win their respective contests.
Fairyhouse: 12.30 Arvika Ligeonniere
1.0 Grange Alainn 1.30 Aran Concerto 2.0 Cousin Vinny 2.35 Bronx Boy 3.10 Saddlers Storm 3.45 Gormanstown Cuckoo.
Thurles: 12.45 Sounds Of Jupiter 1.15 Golden Sunbird 1.45 Far Away So Close (Nap) 2.20 Kylebeg Krystle 2.55 Rhyl Accord 3.30 Undergraduate 4.0 Rockfield Abbey.