Riches wait in Cup
Mullins domination unlikely on cracking day of Grade One action at Leopardstown
Irish Gold Cup day tomorrow at Leopardstown is one of the biggest race meetings anywhere all year and with four Grade One races down for decision, we can expect a flurry of activity in the Cheltenham Festival markets.
The feature race will see last year's Cheltenham Gold Cup third Road To Riches make his first start since winning the Clonmel Oil Chase back in November and despite the lengthy absence, he looks a very worthy odds-on favourite.
Last year's first two, Carlingford Lough and Foxrock, will return and add intrigue to a race that also features Grade One-winning novice Gilgamboa and the Lexus Chase runner-up and so often unlucky First Lieutenant.
Cases can be made for the McManus pair of Gilgamboa and Carlingford Lough, the former was fourth in the Paddy Power and not disgraced over a shorter trip in the John Durkan, while Carlingford Lough memorably won the race last year. Also, Foxrock was like a different horse in the Lexus and it would be no surprise if Ted Walsh can find a little more improvement from him but Road To Riches looks rock solid.
Noel Meade's stable star was only a few strides away from being second to a very good Gold Cup winner , his form is in the book so this could be the horse that gives Meade a first Irish Gold Cup, or Irish Hennessy as it was previously known.
With four Grade One races up for grabs there would be an expectancy for Willie Mullins to dominate the card and a lot of money earlier in the week for Bellshill would suggest that he is the stable's best chance in the Deloitte Novice Hurdle.
However, despite his Grade One win at Naas at the beginning of the year, the form of that race has been let down by the runner-up and Tombstone looks to be the one to take all the beating here for Gordon Elliott.
Elliott has made no secret of how highly he rates the Gigginstown-owned six-year-old and the trainer is fairly adamant that on another day he may well have beaten Long Dog here at Christmas and he looks a horse that will be hard to beat in the second of two novice hurdles.
Proceedings get underway with the GAIN Spring Juvenile Hurdle for which Aidan O'Brien's Ivanovich Gorbatov (pictured) leads the market, and deservedly so.
The highly-rated Flat performer made a smooth transition to his new life over hurdles by winning his maiden at Christmas and looks a type who will have no problem with the step up in class.
Ivanovich Gorbatov is going to be hard to beat but Jer's Girl looks a stand-out each-way bet in the same race.
She was just touched off in the Grade Two at Christmas for Gavin Cromwell and while she might not be able to overturn the favourite, she should be in the frame.