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12.00 - 'join Tote.ie With A 10 Risk Free Bet' Maiden Hurdle (2m)
Willie Mullins' string were in funny old form at this meeting a year ago, failing to really hit top gear. It will therefore be interesting to see how the champion trainer starts off this busy period with MICRO MANAGE. His string are operating 33 per-cent strike-rate leading into the Christmas programme and Mullins will be hopeful of a productive week.
He should take opener with this useful Flat recruit. His career has been stop-start but he won 2-5 on the level and, after more than a year out, was not disgraced in Group 3/Group 1 contests at the Curragh back in the autumn. He may have too much for these rivals.
Hurricane Cliff found only one too good on his hurdling bow at Cork 55 days ago and the Canford Cliffs gelding therefore rates as a threat for Henry De Bromhead and Rachel Blackmore.
Of those at bigger prices, it might be worth looking out for Irish Poseidon, winner of his last three on the Polytrack at Dundalk and a potentially useful recruit to this sphere.
12.30 - Thorntons Recycling Maiden Hurdle (2m)
The first of many clashes between the Willie Mullins and Gordon Elliott teams over the Festive season as EL BARRA and Wide Receiver lock horns in this maiden hurdle.
The latter was runner-up in a bumper at this meeting last year having won on rules debut at Navan. He was easily repelled back here in February and is 0-3 over hurdles this term, though that hardly tells the full story.
He's posted figures of 232 in those runs at Punchestown and Navan (2m/2m4f) and on his most recent start he found only subsequent Grade 2 winner Ashdale Bob from the Jessica Harrington yard too good. He sets the benchmark back down to the minimum trip.
In the Rich Ricci silks however he's got a rival of some repute to contend with in El Barra. He was second to Fury Road in his lone point-to-point run before being snapped up for £280,000 by these connections.
He had his rivals strung out like the washing behind him in taking a Thurles bumper on debut last month and may take high rank in the maiden hurdles division now.
Snake Oil and Lady Heath can boast winning bumper form and so need close inspection going over jumps now, while Decimation has twice finished second over timber this season in as many starts and should go well again.
1.05 - Knight Frank Juvenile Hurdle (Grade 2, 2m)
After joining Gordon Elliott from Michael Halford following a Fairyhouse maiden win on the level in July, ZANAHIYR has won 2-2 over hurdles. He was workmanlike at Ballinrobe in taking his maiden, but last month's Grade 3 back at Fairyhouse saw him bludgeon the likes of Saint Sam (second) and Druid's All Star (third) in very impressive fashion.
Those rivals get weight from him now but given the authority with which Jack Kennedy's mount came away to win - and the probability of further improvement to come - it's hard to see the placings being reversed.
Autumn Evening won on testing ground at Cork this month on first start over timber but Jessica Harrington's charge will surely have to build considerably on that now. One to pay serious attention to is Busselton, a Listed hurdles winner in France for David Cottin and now starting out life for Joseph O'Brien in ambition circumstances. It's unlikely the trainer is tilting at windmills.
1.40 - Holden Plant Rentals Novice Handicap Hurdle (2m)
It took him a while to get the hang of things over jumps but REBEL GOLD has been on the upgrade throughout 2020. He returned from Lockdown to win a Limerick maiden hurdle (2m½f, good) in June and after being well held at Galway next time, landed his second success over timber at Punchestown in September off a mark of 116.
Since then he has twice made the frame in Beginners' Chases at Tipperary (2m1f, soft to heavy) and Punchestown (2m3½f, soft to heavy), outrunning odds of 50/1 behind the smart Asterion Forlonge last month.
A mark of 121 therefore doesn't appear to be prohibitive for him back over flights and he makes sound appeal at double-figure odds here.
With a maximum field lining up, there are lots of alternatives. Envious Editor has been running well in maidens since joining Gordon Elliott from Jessica Harrington and should give a solid account, while stablemate One Down and the versatile One Cool Poet need considering.
With A Start can be a player too. He won well on hurdles bow at Gowran Park in July and, only nine days on, couldn't make up ground in a Listed Galway Festival novice having been held up in rear. The son of Sea The Stars has plenty potential untapped in this code and is another lurking at decent odds for Noel Meade and Denis O'Regan.
2.15 - Racing Post Novice Chase (Grade 1, 2m1f)
Last season's Champion Hurdle third Darver Star made a nice start to his chasing career with a ready success at Punchestown in October but Gavin Cromwell's charge was no match for Felix Desjy since a Grade 2 at Punchestown. He's got the best part of ten-lengths to find on that showing.
The Gigginstown inmate had missed all of last season having been a promising novice over timber in 2018/19. He won at Navan on the Flat in his comeback in July before an early departure when fancied to go well over hurdles at Galway off a mark of 151 that same month.
None the worse for the fall seemingly, he's 2-2 as a chaser and last month's defeat of Darver Star has been advertised positively since by runner-up Sizing Pottsie in landing a decent handicap at Fairyhouse. For all that, Darver Star may get close now on better ground and isn't written off by an means.
BLACKBOW won a pair of bumpers around here (including at this meeting in 2017) before missing a big chunk of time. He failed to get on the board in four hurdles runs last season but no such reoccurrence when he made his first start over fences at Navan last month, easily swatting aside Entoucas and a dozen more rivals behind.
Danny Mullins was on board then and there may be plenty more in the offing from their partnership at a course which has served Blackbow well in both previous visits.
2.50 - 'bet Through The Free Racing Post App' Handicap Chase (2m1f)
Quamino has course-and-distance winning form in the locker and is lurking on a dangerous mark again for Pail Nolan now. He's race-fit from a couple of spins around the Polytrack in Dundalk this month and has to be amongst the plausible solutions to this puzzle.
A Wave To The Sea, a Grade 1-winning juvenile, was in front of POPONG in a Grade 3 novice over fences at Punchestown in October but must improve in the jumping department to uphold that now after an error-strewn performance since in a Grade 2 back at the Kildare circuit.
Henry De Bromhead's mare meanwhile has finished second to Colreevy at Punchestown (2m3½f, heavy) in one run since. She was no match for the easy Willie Mullins-trained winner but did come home well in advance of the remainder.
Rachel Blackmore is back on board this afternoon and, switched to handicapping, it's not hard to envisage them having a say in this.
Top Moon needs a betting check going into handicaps, while the veteran Grand Partner won over hurdles recently and possesses an excellent record at this track. He's got a useful 7lb claimer on board to aid his cause.
3.25 - Holden Plant Rentals Flat Race (2m)
A typical offering for a bumper at this meeting with lots of appealing sorts on paper, some promising once-raced types with scope for better and the leading players all ably represented.
Joseph O'Brien mopped up bumpers at this meeting a year ago and has ?115,000 recruit Collins going to war for the first time. He's got some excellent relations on the Flat and is a possible danger to all.
Harry Alonzo and Top Bandit already have form in the book for trainers that routinely do well in bumpers but COOL JET is from the family of Cheltenham Bumper winner Cousin Vinny and represents the champion trainer on debut.
The Mullins bumper team have been flying on the track and so no shocks if he has been hand-picked for this opening assignment.