Townend can coax the best out of Charmer
WHILE it's not quite from the sublime to the ridiculous, this afternoon's fare at Wexford and Down Royal is a world away from what punters have been enjoying in the Cotswolds all week.
Centrepiece of the card in the south-east is the Bettyville Park Veterans' Handicap Chase, which has attracted a competitive field of old horses coming close to drawing their pension.
The Fonze heads the weights and the Tramore specialist has his sights lowered after failing to complete in a couple of Grade Twos, with former Pierse Hurdle winners Penny's Bill and Spring The Que among the opposition.
Western Charmer hasn't shown much this campaign, but filled the runner-up berth in the Irish National last season and it would be no surprise if Dessie Hughes got him back to near his best, with Paul Townend an eye-catching booking.
The New Ross Maiden Hurdle gets proceedings under way and now that Paul Nolan has opted to put blinkers on Red Calima, Michael Doran's mount can make the most of his experience at the main expense of Suspect Device.
Headgear also goes on Nolan's Candeeiro for the first time in the Curracloe Maiden Hurdle, and the six-year-old might just find enough improvement to edge Scots Gaelic.
Nolan lowers the sights of See U Bob in the Richard Browne & Sons Ltd Hurdle. The nine-year-old has struggled in a couple of hot handicap chases and now reverts to the smaller obstacles, but the progressive Oconnells Pike might deny him on this occasion.
Fourth Class enjoyed a fine win over hurdles at Thurles and now goes back over fences in the Pinnacle Novice Handicap Chase, but Andrew Lynch might get the better of Henry de Bromhead with Jim Dreaper's Sizing Santiago.
Up at Down Royal, Tony Martin's stalwart Psycho will be difficult to beat in the featured conditions chase. In the beginners' chase the Hughes-trained Mackeys Forge is likely to start favourite, but Gordon Elliott's The Shepherd looks the stronger stayer.