Pont Alexandre makes welcome return to competitive action
The long-absent Pont Alexandre makes his eagerly awaited return and debut over fences in the Buy Your Go Racing In Kildare Badge Beginners Chase at Punchestown on Sunday.
As a seven-year-old, the Grade One-winning novice hurdler will hopefully have plenty of opportunity to make up for lost time, having endured more than his fair share of problems since finishing third in the 2013 Neptune Investment Management Novices' Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival.
Many did not envisage defeat for the Dar Jin gelding at Prestbury Park, but history tells us there was no disgrace in finishing third behind The New One.
He makes his first start in almost 1,000 days in this two-and-three-quarter-mile heat and all enthusiasts of the game will be eager to see Pont Alexandre at least show some of the old spark, and this is a nice starting point with just eight in opposition.
The pace is likely to be sensible on the testing terrain and the Willie Mullins inmate may find Balbir Du Mathan, Nickname Exit, Salsa Sensation and Talbot Road most troublesome among his rivals.
Another exciting runner on the card for the champion trainer and Ruby Walsh is Yorkhill, who goes jumping for the first time under Rules in the Buy Your 2016 Annual Membership Maiden Hurdle.
This point-to-point graduate has always been held in some regard at Closutton and has justified that reputation on the racecourse with two bumper wins.
The latest of those came about at the Punchestown Festival in April and there is every reason to think he will relish the step up in trip now as he starts off over timber.
Owners Andrea and Graham Wylie should have plenty of good days ahead with Yorkhill, especially considering the big chestnut comes from the family of high-profile performers such as The Listener and Offshore Account.
An Dearg Mor, Mall Dini, The Big Apple, Road To Respect and Blessed King are others to note.
The opening Ladies Free Admission On New Years Eve Rated Novice Hurdle looks highly likely to go to either Gigginstown House Stud or JP McManus.
Gigginstown are double-handed, with retained rider Bryan Cooper preferring Henry de Bromhead's Wexford scorer to Gordon Elliott's Clonmel and Thurles winner Roman Gold.
The McManus silks are carried by the Denis Cullen-trained A Great View, who could not have been more impressive at Limerick a month ago.
Oscar Sam won on his first start since joining Jessica Harrington at Clonmel last month and could well follow up in the Follow Us On Facebook And Twitter Handicap Hurdle. Holeinthewall Bar is the one most likely to give him something to think about.
Mullins saddles Gigginstown-owned newcomer Blow By Blow in his bid to win the concluding Old House, Kill (Pro/Am) Flat Race for the fifth straight year, although Harrington's Jett sets a decent standard after a couple of decent efforts in this sphere last season.