Punchestown: Voler La Vedette on fast track to victory
Unusually fast ground will greet the runners — headed by multiple scorers Voler La Vedette, Elyaadi and Muirhead — for the welcome resumption of National Hunt fare at Punchestown this afternoon, when the session will be staged on the watered main track.
The sudden dry spell has obliged the management at the Kildare venue to alter the surface after the going proved too quick for several trainers to risk their charges at both Fairyhouse and Limerick last weekend.
Thankfully, this unseasonal scenario does not appear to have impacted on today's featured Grabel Mares Hurdle at Listed level, with nine of the 13 initial acceptors declared, including Voler La Vedette, which was successful in this contest a year ago.
This talented daughter of King's Theatre has won on her seasonal debut from Colm Murphy's yard for the last two years and will be up for inclusion by Jackpot investors, who, however, might be well advised to include a couple of her rivals.
John Queally's versatile Elyaadi should not be underestimated along with Alpine Glade and Star Wood.
Kilkenny-based John O'Shea could be rewarded, along with the season's leading rider Andrew McNamara, when Gowran Park 50/1 second Ember Jack tackles the opening juvenile maiden hurdle.
The Hernando gelding, which is fitted with first-time cheekpieces, made a race of it with the more experienced Days Ahead at Gowran and a repeat of that performance should suffice here.
Holding a lead of three and six winners respectively over former title-holders Paul Carberry and Barry Geraghty, McNamara, who is on the 35 mark, must have high hopes, too, of taking the Event Centre Maiden Hurdle for the Mouse Morris yard aboard First Lieutenant.
An initial victory over timber for First Lieutenant to go with his point-to-point and bumper wins would be a pointer to the prospects of Navan runner-up Meitheamh making a deserved visit to the winner's enclosure after the mares' bumper.
Last seen at this track when fifth to Hurricane Fly in the festival's Champion Hurdle, Muirhead has the ability to belatedly get back on the victory trail in the concluding Dobbins Food Hall Beginners Chase.
Meanwhile, John Gosden has been forced to pull the plug on Arctic Cosmos' bid for the Canadian International at Woodbine on Saturday and the St Leger winner will not run again this season.
The three-year-old suffered a cannon bone injury when working on Saturday morning and was taken to the Equine Hospital in Newmarket for surgery.
The operation was successful and connections have every hope he will return to action next season.
“The operation went well and by all accounts he is recovering well at the hospital and hopefully he'll be back again next year,” said Gosden's jockey William Buick, who rode him at Doncaster.
“It was a very important win for me because it was my first English Group One and my first Classic.
“He's always been a good horse but he was very immature and babyish but he was third in the Gordon Stakes and that made a man of him at Goodwood.
“He was ready for the step up in the Leger and he won it well,” said.
Jockey Michael Hills believes the absence of Arctic Cosmos improves Redwood's chances.
“When I saw him in the race it obviously was a worry, but now he's not there it makes life a bit easier,” said Hills.
Redwood, trained by his father Barry, last month made a successful visit to Woodbine for the Grade One Northern Dancer Turf Stakes.