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THE Grade 2 Michael Purcell Memorial Novice Hurdle at Thurles this afternoon should be a cracking contest, bringing together some very promising young horses.

Premier Victory, with a rating of 140, sets the standard, having produced two smashing performances to score at Down Royal and Cork.

The worry, however, is that Tom Hogan’s six-year-old hasn’t been seen for 102 days and, on that basis, is passed over.

The vote goes to the progressive Western Leader, a dual bumper winner who got off the mark over flights at Leopardstown at Christmas.

He made every yard of the running then to land a contest which has been working out really well.

Acapulco, Rick and Empire Theatre, third, fourth and fifth respectively, have all won in the meantime.

Rick renews rivalry and has to be respected, having returned to Leopardstown to slam well-fancied Skorcher by 11 lengths.

Because Conor O’Farrell cannot claim his 5lbs allowance off Western Leader, Rick is now that much better in with his opponent for a beating of a short head and two lengths. Western Leader still gets preference.

Pauline Gavin's Ad Idem, another on an upward curve, gets the nap vote in the two miles and six Cashel Maiden Hurdle.

He indicated his turn mightn’t be too long delayed when three and a half lengths second behind Mr Cracker at Navan last month.

The third, Dun Masc, a further 12 lengths away, ran well at Fairyhouse yesterday, while Ionisphere (eighth) scored at Fairyhouse on Tuesday.

There are some eye-catching newcomers in the Ladbrokes' Cheltenham Bumper, but once-raced Garlough, touched off by Tom Taaffe's Silent Picture at Punchestown, can put his experience to good use.

Ex-winning pointer Good Time Donie, a solid third on his racecourse debut behind Flat Out at Punchestown last week, will go close in the Killinan Maiden Hurdle.

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Saturday, January 15, 2022

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