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2.10 - Donohoe Marquees Maiden Hurdle (2m4f)
Absence is never so much of a concern when the horse in question is trained by one WP Mullins, the champion trainer having proved time and again he can get one ready at home to shine on the first day back on the track. As such, French import FLY SMART is sure to attract plenty attention in the market on first run in the Rich Ricci silks.
It's more than two years since he finished second in an Auteuil juvenile hurdle for Guillaume Macaire, but he's very likely to hit the ground running under champion pilot Paul Townend now and this intermediate trip should be to his liking with the French form over 2m2f on testing ground.
Barbary Master was a bumper winner at Navan a year ago but he hasn't quite justified market prominence in three hurdles starts this term for Noel Meade.
He was most disappointing over C&D (soft) at Christmas and while his effort since at Navan (third) was much more encouraging, more is required in order to open his account. His trainer also accounts for interesting newcomer Heisenberg, who is well worth a market check being a half-brother to former Supreme Novices' hero Go Native.
Salt Wind is twice-placed in maidens over this trip and drops back in trip after taking a tired fall at Thurles (2m7f, heavy) when held last month. He should be in the mix again. Takarengo is a consistent though exposed performer now, while He's Ok is another to be noted given he has potential for better than he showed here at Christmas.
2.45 - Seamus Meade Hurdle (2m2f)
FRENCH DYNAMITE is the most likely winner on paper, despite the concession of weight to the useful Wonder Laish.
The selection was runner-up behind Sire Du Berlais in the Grade 2 Lismullen Hurdle at Navan (2m4f, soft to heavy) in on his comeback in November and backed that up with solid effort behind Flooring Porter in the Grade 1 Christmas Hurdle over three-miles here next time.
That effort can possibly be upgraded as he lay up close to the pace throughout and tried to get after the impressive front-running winner from three out, before tiring and finishing 10-lengths off the pace at the line.
There's nothing of that ilk to be feared today and Robbie Power's mount - who holds an entry in the Stayers' Hurdle at Cheltenham - should grasp this opportunity coming back down in trip. He has winning form at 2m/2m4f and so this shortened trip isn't a negative for him.
Wonder Laish is the main danger on these terms, with his hopes further boosted by the 5lb claim of Cathal Landers on board. He twice made the frame in Grade 3 company around Tipperary last year, including on the back of a 510-day absence last June.
He clashed with useful sorts like Aramon, Petit Mouchoir and Saint Roi in those two-milers. He's getting plenty weight but the lightly-raced French Dynamite is still improving and, with his proven stamina, should ensure this is a thorough test with Wonder Lash going beyond the bare minimum for the first time.
Dr Mikey is now 12-years-old and hasn't been sighted since turning over Stratum in a similar contest at Listowel's Harvest Festival in 2019. His previous success before that was taking the scalp of A Plus Tard in a Gowran Park beginners' chase in late 2018, so he knows how to dish out a bloody nose. Judgement Day was better known as a chaser for Henry De Bromhead and faces a tough task starting out for new connections now.
3.15 - TRM Equine Nutrition Mares Maiden Hurdle (2m4f)
A sizeable field of contenders but, in truth, many of these are liable to be struggling to land a blow. The trio of focus on are likely to be Erins Benefit, Royal Illusion and Mare Quimby.
Royal Illusion turned the 2019 Irish Cesarewitch into a procession and represents the Mullins/Townend axis here. She was third in a 19-runner Naas maiden (2m, heavy) in December's hurdles bow - form isn't special - and should be able to handle this increased distance, ensuring her claims are there to be seen for top connections, despite the rarity of seeing the Ballylinch Stud colours in this code.
Erin's Benefit has garnered plenty experience in five starts over timber since winning a Bellewstown bumper in August. Her Thurles second over this trip in November ensures there are no concerns at the distance, and she has been given time to get over a fall at Tramore in December when she was in a battle only to unseat Denis O'Regan at the last. That was a decent race and, while more exposed than some of these, she certainly sets the standard.
MARE QUIMBY won a Punchestown bumper on debut in October and Noel Meade's inmate has run well in three starts since despite facing some tough enough challenge. She was far from disgraced as a 66-1 poke in a Grade 2 Mares' bumper at last month's Dublin Racing Festival here, finishing fifth, and is likely to make a splash going over hurdles for the first time with the longer trip to suit. She's worth taking on the front two in the market with.
3.45 - Anton O'Toole Mares Handicap Hurdle (2m4f)
There remains some work to do on the jumping front but SMITHS GIRL ought to be capable of winning at this sort of level before long. The mare shaped with plenty promise on penultimate start at Punchestown (2m4f, heavy) and was quietly fancied to build on that back there three weeks ago upped to three-miles.
It didn't quite happen for her but she's worth another chance back over this intermediate distance. The cheekpieces are deployed again this afternoon and with Eoin Walsh claiming 5lb, she's potentially in a good spot if the forecast better ground is to her liking.
Klassy Kay won that race over 2m4f in January off a mark of 96 for the champion trainer with Rachel Blackmore on board and will be fancied to follow up. She meets Smith Girl on different terms now however. Amor Verdadero was between the pair in third then and, with useful 7lb claimer Jordan Gainford taking over here, he too is in with a decent chance of going close.
The returning Demi Pile and Wild Caprice are others that can be considered for place money.
4.20 - Irish Stallion Farms EBF Rated Novice Chase (2m1f)
Steer Clear returned from a break to win at Thurles (2m2f, yielding) in a handicap over fences in October before seeing his follow-up attempt there soon after fail with a second-fence departure. He's been mostly consistent over fences for Padraig Roche and is worth of a place on any shortlist now.
Hesamanofhisword often toyed with the notion of winning over hurdles but couldn't quite bring himself to complete the task. He's shaped with promise in three starts over these obstacles thus far, jumping soundly, and should go well for Kevin Brouder, who had an easy winner for this yard at Punchestown last weekend. They are worth noting in the betting.
Dis Donc has gathered good experience for Noel Meade over fences and is likely to be in the firing line again with first-time cheekpieces added, he's better off on these terms with last month's Down Royal scorer STANSFIELD.
Paul Traynor's charge just failed to add to his tally over hurdles at Fairyhouse 13 days ago under a big weight and has excellent prospects back over fences with Cormac Abernethy back on board and claiming useful weight.
4.50 - Tri Equestrian Handicap Chase (Grade B, 2m5½f)
The experienced pair Livelovelaugh and Minella Till Dawn will likely spearhead the betting for Ireland's top two jumps trainers. The former hasn't won dating back to 2018 but did post an excellent third in a C&D handicap at the Dublin Racing Festival last month and should go well again in what amounts to an easier assignment. Given his connections, he might well go off short enough in the betting (was 28-1 last time) and there's unlikely to be great value.
Minella Till Dawn was right back to his best stuff when scoring at Naas last month off a mark of 126 with plenty in hand. He's 8lb higher here and represents Gordon Elliott at the end of a lamentable week for the Cullentra trainer.
If Jett could recapture the mood that saw him finishing fourth in an Irish Gold Cup 13 months ago, Jessica Harrington's charge would be a player despite the burden of top-weight. His efforts this season leave plenty to be desired, however.
MITCHOUKA might be worth a chance for trainer Gearoid O'Loughlin in a typically open heat. He had some good novice form last season and ran well at Gowran Park on his comeback in November in what is turning out a useful four-runner race. That was over 2m4f and he didn't quite seem to get home in the fiercely competitive Paddy Power Chase over three-miles here at Christmas having shaped well for a long part of the journey.
He put in a good effort last month at the DRF over shorter, finishing fifth behind the likes of A Wave To The Sea and The Shunter. He's off the same mark of 136 now and should give a good account back over an intermediate trip.
5.20 - Tri Equestrian Superstore & Cafe (Pro/Am) Flat Race (2m)
Eyewitness showed a nimble turn of foot to come away and win at Naas last month on debut for Gordon Elliott and Jamie Codd, displaying traits in keeping with his Flat pedigree. He had HUNTERS YARN (third) and Enki Flacke (fourth) behind that afternoon but likely must improve to confirm those placings now conceding a penalty to his old foes.
Hunters Yarn was well supported in the betting for that debut run and Pat Doyle's son of Fame And Glory should come on plenty for the experience. He's also likely to benefit if this is a more end to end gallop. Interesting to see if the money arrives for him again.
Debutant Dark Raven represents the Mullins power-alliance of Willie and Patrick and is, of course, paid the greatest of attention on racecourse bow.