Ruby Walsh's title charge is hotting up
Ruby Walsh can continue to make the most of his 'free' start to the domestic jockeys' championship by bagging a couple of winners on the middle leg of Killarney's three-day May Festival tonight.
Reigning dual champion Davy Russell is recuperating after undergoing surgery on his lung 10 days ago, and the former eight-time holder has taken advantage of his main rival's absence to gain an early lead over Andrew Lynch.
Walsh – who won at Killarney yesterday on Wrong Turn – could also benefit from Philip Enright's injury woe here, as Robert Tyner's stable jockey is currently sidelined after fracturing bones in both of his hands.
That leaves Walsh to fill in on Tyner's Kandinski in the opening two-and-a-half-mile Ross Golf Course Maiden Hurdle, an otherwise modest heat that should see this useful seven-year-old justify nap billing.
A Knockanard point-to-point winner two years ago, the son of Bienamado has since finished second in five bumpers, and filled the same berth behind Our Man Zebo when favourite at Ballinrobe last time.
However, on his first try over this trip that day, he did little wrong in keeping up with the smart-looking winner.
If Kandinski replicates that level of performance now, he should be plenty good enough to finally break his track duck.
In the seven-runner Laurels Bar Hurdle, there's an intriguing clash between Willie Mullins' Walsh-ridden Midnight Oil and the Gordon Elliott-trained Bondage.
Elliott has booked the excellent five-pound claimer Declan Lavery, from Downpatrick, for his impressive Down Royal scorer, while Midnight Oil was already rated five pounds inferior.
Mullins' Gigginstown Stud-owned contender won for a second time in three starts when readily obliging at odds-on at Gowran Park last month.
He will have to step up again here if he is to deny Bondage off unfavourable terms, but he is preferred on the basis that he might cope better with what is likely to be rain-softened ground.
Davy Condon could take the MD O'Shea Maiden Hurdle on Peter Kavanagh's unexposed Tramore runner-up Town Pond, while amateur rider Andrew Latta should win the International Hotel Handicap Hurdle on Blossom Gate.
A two-and-a-half-mile maiden hurdle victor at Cork in November, John Kiely's mare found a two-furlong shorter trip inadequate when flashing home for third behind Fiery Oscar at Limerick on her return. The two-and-three-quarter-mile journey here should be ideal for her.