After four winners last week, and – as a Wigan fan – sneaking in a jab at Blackburn Rovers to boot, it’s highly likely that this week’s column won’t fare as well, and could prove to be more of a Frank Stallone rather than a Sylvester.
There’s some fine action on both sides of the Irish Sea and the best of it comes from Punchestown, which hosts two graded contests, starting with the Grade 3 Total Event Rental Novice Chase at 13:15.
This race was rather predictably won by Willie Mullins last term with Invitation Only, who was top-rated going into the race, but it’s a Henry de Bromhead runner who tops the Timeform figures this time around.
That runner is A Plus Tard, whose name translates into English as “see you later”. He built on his promising Irish debut at Gowran by saying exactly that to his rivals when getting off the mark for the yard at Naas a month later.
He’s a nice recruit to this code, and is fancied to progress once again to take this at the main expense of Topaz third Blow By Blow and the progressive Winter Escape.
Sunday’s feature comes later on the card, with the Grade 2 Moscow Flyer Novice Hurdle (14:50).
This race is likely to be highly informative, considering that the winner has gone on to be the favourite for the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle in four of the last five years.
All four of those horses were trained by Willie Mullins, who has won seven of the last ten renewals, and he looks to have a nice mare this time around in the form of Buildmeupbuttercup who made a winning debut for the yard in a novice contest at Navan last month, prevailing by half a length and was value for much more.
There’s likely plenty more to come yet, particularly when there’s more of an emphasis on speed, and punters will be hoping she doesn’t break their hearts. Battleoverdoyen’s brother Swordsman and impressive Leopardstown winner Jetez are the two she has to beat.
Over at Kelso, three of the runners in the handicap at 13:35 will race from out of the handicap, meaning they are more unconvincing than Manchester United were under Jose Mourinho, and as such it looks worth siding with the top weight, Diamond King.
He’s switched to Olly Murphy having lost his way a little with Gordon Elliott last term, and whilst he has to concede a lot of weight to his opponents, he could prove far too classy should his new trainer be able to spark a revival in him.
Thirty minutes later at 14:05, the one who catches the eye is the reappearing Mount Mews, who has been found softer opposition than Anthony Joshua in a title fight.
A useful hurdler, things never quite took off for him over fences last season, but he gave the impression that there was still some untapped potential.
He’s clearly fragile, but the switch to Donald McCain could prove just the tonic and he could well rack up a sequence of wins.