PRICE BOOSTS MAX BET £10
1.10 - Irish Stallion Farms EBF Paddy Mullins Mares Handicap Hurdle (Grade B, 2m2f)
It's a tough starting place on day two with a maximum field going to post in this mares' handicap, won last year by Black Tears for Gordon Elliott. The Cullentra supremo has chances here with Felicidad (Jack Kennedy) and Tintangle (Hugh Morgan) on what may prove a big afternoon for Elliott's string.
Lady Breffni, Ruaille Buaille and Dysart Diamond are part of a strong WP Mullins assault meanwhile, the last-named having made a promising start to life in handicaps when scoring over 2m here at Christmas in first-time tongue-tie (retained). She's up 11lb and should handle the extra two-furlongs.
Rachel Blackmore and Henry De Bromhead saddle handicap newcomer Telmesomethinggirl, thrice a winner of minor hurdles races in four starts from June-September and placed in a Listed Galway novice contest between times. She has to be in the picture from an opening mark of 128 and she's already won over 2m4f so stamina is no issue.
It shouldn't be a worry either for the Tony Mullins-trained RESCUE PACKAGE. She has proved consistent in her efforts over timber and won a 2m1f heavy-ground Punchestown novice event in November. Robbie Power gets the leg up and there may be a challenge in them from an opening mark of 127.
1.40 - Tattersalls Ireland Spring Juvenile Hurdle (Grade 1, 2m)
The Gordon Elliott yard can strike here with QUILIXIOS in the Spring Juvenile Hurdle, the first of four Grade 1s on the card. The trainer has a handsome team of juvenile hurdlers at his disposal, with Zanahiyr spearheading the market for next month's Triumph in Cheltenham.
Busselton (second), Ha D'Or (third) and Saint Sam (fourth) were all behind that particular Elliott runner over C&D at Christmas in Grade 1 fare and they run into another strong contender now.
An easy winner in one start in France, Quilixios was snapped up by Cheveley Park Stud thereafter and made light work of the tasks given to him at Punchestown (2m, yielding) and Down Royal (2m½f, yielding) in October by his new trainer, winning those races by a combined 33-lengths. He looks very exciting and while it was mildly surprising we didn't get to see him since then, it's noteworthy given the depth of young talent Elliott has, that he's sent alone into this scrap.
Paul Townend and Youmdor crashed out at the final flight last month at Fairyhouse having won well previously at Gowran on hurdles bow. The ex-Freddy Head inmate was no certainty to get the job done last time when he departed, though the champion jockey does retain faith over stablemates Ha D'Or and Saint Sam.
Rachel Blackmore takes over on the Rich Ricci-owned Ha D'Or here and they could turn around Christmas form with Busselton. If Quilixios is as good as he looks, they ought to be playing for places again, however.
2.10 - Chanelle Pharma Novice Hurdle (Grade 1, 2m)
If Elliott has the strong fancy in the preceding race, then it's doubly hard to see how Mullins' APPRECIATE IT can be downed here. There's depth in numbers in this event perhaps but last season's Champion Bumper second was much too good over Christmas when landing the Future Champions Novice Hurdle over track and trip.
Elliott's Ballyadam (also in the Cheveley Park Stud colours) rivalled him in the betting that December day but certainly not on the track. He was the best part of 16-lengths behind at the line and no better than fourth, with Irascible and Keskonrisk (both line-up again) splitting the market principles.
Paul Townend's mount ranged into that contest with ease and was little more than pushed out in coming through to win by nine-lengths. Barring accidents, Appreciate It should stage a repeat with the form of his maiden success at Cork also strong after the second, Master McShee, won both starts since.
Ballyadam didn't jump as fluently as he might have last time. He can possibly improve and is the chief threat again on the betting, though both Irascible and Keskonrisk for Henry De Bromhead and Joseph O'Brien respectively, are perfectly entitled to feel they can take further step forwards from those Christmas efforts - both having come into that race one-for-one over sticks.
The experienced N'Golo was sent off as short as 15-2 in the Christmas race and surely something was ailing him given how quickly he downed tools when the race got serious. He's now available at up to three-times the price and it wouldn't be a huge surprise if Brian Hayes' mount put up a far better effort.
2.40 - William Fry Handicap Hurdle (Grade B, 3m)
A three-mile handicap hurdle sure to test the will of any form student. There are many, many plausible angles in this race. Easy Troytown Chase winner The Jam Man couldn't get the job done in a Grade 3 Haydock handicap in November but Ronan McNally's charge is rated 5lb lower back on Irish shores and might have a major say again this afternoon. He's certainly one of the more likely sorts on what he has been doing.
Ballyshannon Rose continues to thwart the handicapper and made it four successive wins when she scored at Fairyhouse three weeks ago on heavy going. She has developed a habit of just managing to get there, which always bodes well, but the assessor has tacked on 12lb this time and that might do for her in the short-term.
Last-time-out Cork winner Koshari is respected going up in distance for the champion trainer/jockey team in the Ricci silks, while the likes of City Island, Low Sun, Dandy Mag and Unexpected Depth are worth monitoring. Ted Walsh's handicap debutant Pure Genius could have a say but the vote in this treacherously tough event is given to SNEAKY GETAWAY.
A couple of early errors didn't help his cause over C&D at Christmas and he perhaps was never quite at ease thereafter in that race won by Dandy Mag. A strong stayer on the Flat; that was his first attempt at 3m and little was learned in truth. He started as low as 7-1 in the betting and it's reasonable to suggest he's going to be capable of far better than he showed that afternoon.
Brian Hayes may try and get him closer to the front this time, allowing get a sight of his hurdles and he's a possible improver in first-time tongue-tie.
3.10 - Flogas Novice Chase (Grade 1, 2m5½f)
This race produced the magical success of veteran Faugheen a year ago and while anything as spell-binding as that is going to be hard to replicate with no crowds present, it's highly probable the same silks are carried to glory by MONKFISH today.
Last season's Albert Bartlett winner won a three-mile Grade 1 here at Christmas on just his second start over fences. As he did at Fairyhouse (2m5f, soft) in November, he did it without being flashy but he's a sound jumper and he answered any questions when his main betting rival Latest Exhibition came to throw down a challenge that day.
Paul Nolan's mount was only denied a neck over three-miles at Cheltenham in March behind Monkfish but the winner was probably worth more than the three-lengths he held at the line here in December. They now recalibrate for this clash over 2m5½f but it will be a shock if the application of a tongue-tie is enough to turn things in Latest Exhibition's favour.
The remainder have it all on to topple the front pair (Conflated was 58-lengths behind in third at Christmas) and so the most interesting runner away from the re-opposing duo is Asterion Forlonge.
He didn't get beyond the first when well fancied to burst Envoi Allen's bubble at Punchestown last month, a race in which Fils D'oudairies took second spot, and so there are major questions over his jumping ability now after successive falls. Patrick Mullins gets the bare-knuckle seat this afternoon. He's got a lot to prove, but also lots of ability and Asterion Forlonge is the type that will pick up some major prizes on the days when he puts the jigsaw pieces together.
3.40 - Paddy Power Irish Gold Cup (Grade 1, 3m½f)
Only five runners for the Irish Gold Cup but, no less, a really fascinating and classy renewal of this Grade 1 prize.
Minella Indo, agonisingly denied behind Champ at Cheltenham in the RSA last spring, impressed everyone with wins at Wexford and Navan to launch his new term and Henry De Bromhead's charge duly started favourite for the Savills Chase over C&D at Christmas.
Rachel Blackmore's mount was going about his business when he fell midway through the race, seemingly leaving the Willie Mullins pair of Kemboy and Melon to scrap out the finish. They were battling to the line when another De Bromhead runner, A Plus Tard, ran them both down for a thrilling success.
The pair remain big players this afternoon as the champion trainer bids to win this race for just the second time in eight years. So, too, is Minella Indo, who had never had a moment of concern with his fencing prior to that tumble here at Christmas and should be none the worse for it.
Also coming down that day was DELTA WORK, winner of this prize 12 months ago. Gordon Elliott's charge was unfortunate in getting rid of Sean Flanagan and he was previously 3-3 over fences at this circuit. Delta Work was previously beaten (fifth) behind stablemate The Storyteller at Down Royal on his seasonal bow but it's been a characteristic of his career to get stronger as spring comes around. He should put up a robust defence of this crown and can become the sixth horse to land successive Irish Gold Cups.
4.10 - Gaelic Plant Hire Leopardstown Handicap Chase (Grade A, 2m5½f)
Gordon Elliott's runners in these handicaps are always intriguing and there could be a big effort forthcoming from BRAESIDE here. He has shown a good aptitude in beginners' chases so far this season, locking swords with some very talented operators five starts and thrice making the frame, including runner-up finishes at Fairyhouse and Navan (soft/heavy) over similar trips to this one on this last two outings. An opening mark of 133 could be within his wheelhouse, especially with his talented rider taking 7lb off.
There are a host of possible alternatives, with Farclas, Off You Go, Treacysenniscorthy and Crossed My Mind all worth considering, but perhaps Fan Des Blues can put it together. The promising French import has been somewhat frustrating since arriving on these shores but connections remain convinced there's a big pot or two in him and a first crack at this intermediate trip could be a help to him.
4.40 - Coolmore N.H. Sires Kew Gardens Irish EBF Mares I.N.H. Flat Race (Grade 2, 2m)
These look a talented bunch of mares, both on paper and on what they are initially starting to achieve in their careers. Whatever way this concluding race goes, they should have strong futures ahead.
Willie Mullins fires four, with Patrick Mullins on board impressive Fairyhouse scorer BRANDY LOVE. The ?200,000 purchase looked very good in that success and is an obvious starting point here. She's likely to head the betting and it'll be no shock if she obliges.
Given the talent on show, neither would it be the end of the world if she samples defeat. Stablemates Take Tea, Brooklyn Glory and Grangee are all capable, while last year's winning trainer Gordon Elliott calls on Hollymount (cost ?300,000) and Party Central (boasts good experience) in his attempt to end the meeting on a high.
Betty Zane was much-improved when scoring at Cork on heavy ground last month for fledging handler Ciaran Murphy and is one of note at a bigger price but, all told, it will be a shock if the Mullins/Elliott contenders don't provide the winner.