First off, a tip of the hat to Paul Nicholls. British national hunt racing has had to swallow its pride of late.
But he ventured into the lion's den and plundered one of our biggest prizes on day two at the Punchestown Festival. Clan Des Obeaux was very game in fending off Al Boum Photo in a thrilling staying chase. Hopefully the battle for top honours among the staying hurdles will be just as exciting. A large field goes to post for Thursday's highlight and the current top dog in the division is among them.
3.40 pm Specialist Joinery Group Handicap Hurdle
A tricky puzzle to kick off proceedings. Ena Baie showed signs of life on second start for her new yard last time out. She is also proven in the rough and tumble of a big field handicap. The handicapper gives her a chance and the booking of a talented claimer only sweetens the deal. Cousin Harry won on the opening day of this meeting and he would be greatly feared if backing up under a five pound penalty.
Selection: Ena Baie 8/1
4.15 pm Pigsback.com Handicap Chase
Entoucas looked an unlucky loser in the Grand Annual at the Cheltenham Festival. That race usually represents strong form.
JP McManus has a powerful hand in this race. Mark Walsh has probably made the right choice. Unexcepted is clearly not an easy horse to train but he does display plenty of ability on his infrequent trips to the racecourse mind you. He hails from a yard in rampant form, and can't be dismissed.
Selection: Entoucas 4/1
4.50 pm Mongey Communications La Touche Cup
Stand Up And Fight is a useful sort in hunter chases. Given the yard he hails from, he could take a significant step forward racing over banks. If that proves to be the case, he's the most likely winner here. Some Neck has taken really well to the demands of cross country racing this season and he looks sure to go close.
Selection: Stand Up And Fight 4/1
5.25 pm Ladbrokes Stayers Hurdle
It's probably folly to oppose Flooring Porter. He sets the standard and seems to be improving all the time. There's just a nagging concern about him on a right handed track. He's also a skinny price.
Sole Pretender is worth chancing at huge odds. This unexposed sort defied an 18-month layoff when winning in Cork last time out. The form of that win is open to question but at least the second won next time out.
That race was over the minimum trip but he has shaped in the past like three miles would be well within his compass. Ronald Pump is another with a chance.
Selection: Sole Pretender 28/1
6 pm Conway Piling Handicap Hurdle
Ballywilliam Boy is interesting here. This will only be his second start in handicaps. His first came behind the well treated Zoffanien in Ballinrobe a couple of weeks ago. Ballywilliam Boy suffered some interference that day. He wouldn't have won granted but the run can be marked up.
He had previously been very strong at the line when winning at Naas. This step up to three miles could unlock significant improvement in a horse making just his eighth career start. But Max Flamingo heads a long list of potential dangers.
Selection: Ballywilliam Boy 25/1
6.35 pm Ryanair Novice Chase
Energumene is impossible to oppose and this ground looks to have enough juice in it for him. His form is some way ahead of the opposition.
Janidil's jumping was a revelation last time out in Fairyhouse and a similarly accomplished round here should see him complete the forecast.
Selection: Energumene 2/5
7.05 pm Close Brothers Mares novice Hurdle
Magic Daze ran a massive race for such an inexperienced mare last time out in Cheltenham. A repeat of that run might be good enough here. The potential for improvement is obvious. Gauloise was only narrowly denied in Fairyhouse and she is greatly respected.
Selection: Magic Daze 15/8
7.35 pm Grant Thornton INH Flat Race
There are some highly promising types on show here. None more so that Dysart Diamond. He dotted up on debut in Clonmel last month, and is the choice of Patrick Mullins here. Grand Jury is another who made a big impression when winning on rules debut.
Selection: Dysart Diamond 13/8