Jessica Harrington chase can get off the mark over fences at Thurles
DON'T Touch It tries to break his duck over fences in the opening beginners' chase at Thurles. Jessica Harrington's seven-year-old was a leading novice hurdler last season and beat no less an opponent than Petit Mouchoir in a Grade One at the Punchestown Festival after being supported from 33s into half those odds.
Since having his attention turned to the larger obstacles, the JP McManus-owned Don't Touch It has finished third in the Gowran race won by Bellshill before occupying the same position behind another smart Willie Mullins inmate in Bleu Et Rouge at Leopardstown over Christmas.
Mullins could again provide the sternest test, although his Dicosimo will need to improve dramatically on what he has shown over fences to date, and Tony Martin's Blackmail, who wasn't far behind Don't Touch It at Leopardstown, is another to consider.
The Mullins stable continues Aussies Reigns' jumping education in the Cashel Rated Novice Hurdle. Very smart on the level, the Aussie Rules gelding bettered his hurdling bow second when winning here at odds-on from Montana Belle at the beginning of December, and the rise to two-and-a-half miles should be right up his street.
His mark of 130 is high enough though and he has nothing in hand on these terms over the likes of Thirsty Work, Carrig Cathal and the Ruby Walsh-partnered stable-mate Livelovelaugh, last seen when running a well held third behind the Walsh-ridden Penhill and Call The Taxie. This is a tricky contest, a fact acknowledged by the layers, who make Livelovelaugh a 7/2 chance ahead of Aussie Reigns and Thirsty Work.
The following two-mile-six-furlong maiden hurdle sees Call The Taxie attempting to put a disappointing Fairyhouse run over a fortnight ago behind him. He finished a well beaten third behind Tin Soldier and Champagne Classic when favourite and has 14 lengths to find on the latter on identical terms. Not impossible of course and I'll take an each way interest but I want better odds than the 3/1 offered over the 6/4 chance Champagne Classic. Freeway Space and Loughaderra Prince are also contenders.
The champion trainer sends dual bumper place-getter Sharps Choice over hurdles for the first time in the other 18-runner maiden over two miles, but he faces a solid yardstick in the shape of Capital Force, who has performed with credit in three warmer contests than this. The layers will ask odds about Davy Russell's mount and the Mullins runner has something to prove here
Paper Lantern finally broke through last weekend with success at Fairyhouse and makes a swift reappearance here under a fixed 4lb penalty in the Rock Of Cashel Handicap Chase, as modest a contest as you'll find, even midweek at Thurles. The handicapper says he has 3lb in hand and trainer Karl Thornton takes a brave step in opting to put a 5lb claiming amateur in the saddle rather than leave 3lb claimer Donagh Meyler in charge. He should win again and the extra distance shouldn't make a difference.
Itsallhappening was hampered at Fairyhouse when Coole Craft lost his rider two out. The pair clash again in the two-mile-six-furlong handicap hurdle and are hard to ignore. At the odds Coole Craft makes appeal and I'd be interested in Queeny too at a price.
Gordon Elliott went to £95k for maiden pointer Back Bar and starts him off in the bumper. Just 10 runners but half of them can be given chances. Back Bay and December Punchestown third Game Of War dominate the overnight market but Cork-trained Ken's Well has solid bumper form and Patrick Mullins sits up on this one.
1.40 Don't Touch It
2.10 Paper Lantern
2.45 Capital Force (Nap)
3.45 Call The Taxie
4.20 Coole Craft
4.55 Ken's Well (Dbl)
2.10 Dinnie's Vinnie
2.45 Sharps Choice
3.15 Aussie Reigns
3.45 Champagne Classic
4.55 Game Of War