Jumping enthusiasts are treated to an interesting novice chase at Killarney this evening when John Kiely's promising Sweeps Hill lines up for the feature contest.
Sweeps Hill will be bidding for a second victory over fences in the Christy McSweeney Memorial Novice Chase following his win at Punchestown back in May
The JP McManus-owned gelding has yet to live up to the promise of his early career in bumpers and novice hurdles, but he clearly has talent — as was evidenced by his length defeat of the useful Mr Nosie at the Kildare track.
The New Zealand-bred looks certain to start favourite, even though there's a slight questionmark over his ability to get the two mile and six furlong trip, while he's also up against two other last-time-out winners in Casey Top and Fort George.
The former was very impressive when beating Spill The Beans at Kilbeggan on his fencing debut, and Leonard Whitmore's eight-year-old looks a bigger danger than Ruby Walsh's mount Fort George, which finally won his maiden hurdle at Gowran last time out. While his stamina has to be taken on trust, Sweeps Hill is likely not to be taxed too much in this five-runner field and warrants the nap selection.
Henry de Bromhead, who trains Fort George, will have high hopes of winning the Mike Cronin Readymix Ltd Handicap Chase with Carleton Place, which put up a career-best performance when scoring by seven lengths from Misamon at Uttoxeter last time. The eight-year-old has gone up 8lb in the ratings as a result and might have his work cut out with the likes of Benalma and Good Decision.
As for the Flat action on the card, John Oxx and Johnny Murtagh have been enjoying a decent campaign to date and the Curragbeg partnership should strike again with Shiramiyna in the opening fillies' maiden.
Runner-up to Teo's Sister over seven furlongs at Leopardstown last Thursday, the Aga Khan-owned three-year-old should relish the step up to a mile-and-a-half a furlong, and can see off Michael Halford's Ondeafers with the minimum of fuss.
Murtagh has the leg-up on Coprah for the in-form Kevin Condon yard in the conditions race over an extended mile, and while there is little wrong with the form of his Curragh maiden win last month, it may pay to look elsewhere. Kevin Prendergast runs a course-and-distance winner in Mawaakef which has disappointed this term.
If the three-year-old rediscovered the sort of sparkle that saw him finish second to Casamento in the Beresford Stakes last year, Declan McDonogh's mount would be very difficult to beat.
However, a safer option looks to be Dermot Weld's Northern Rocked.
A model of consistency, the five-year-old was fourth to the smart Blaze Brightly over seven furlongs at Tipperary in April and despite having to shoulder top weight of 10 stone, Pat Smullen's mount can prevail.