Alphabet set for winning return

THREE very low-grade flat races and some modest National Hunt fare make Thurles this afternoon the proverbial minefield as far as punters are concerned.

Royal Alphabet, returning from a break of almost seven months, is the hopeful nap choice in the Ballynonty Novice Hurdle.

A useful sort in bumpers and on the level, Willie Mullins' six-year-old made a winning start over jumps at Punchestown in 1early September.

Revelling in the firm ground on that occasion, he toyed with well-backed market rival, Statim, scoring unextended by four lengths.

The form could hardly have worked out any better with Statim going on to win her next three races.

As long as the ground doesn't ride too testing it was yielding to soft yesterday then Royal Alphabet will take all the beating.

He has shown the ability to handle cut in the past, but there is no doubt a solid surface suits him best.

His relatively long absence is hardly a worry, on the basis Mullins had him on the shortlist for the Supreme Novices' Hurdle at Cheltenhan last week.

Jamie Spencer is a significant booking for Empirical Power in the opening Rock Of Cashel Median Auction Maiden and Eddie Lynam's colt gets the nod.

The son of former Ballydoyle inmate, Second Empire, improved steadily last season, finishing with a reasonable fourth to Park Drive at Gowran Park.

The fact that Erreur got Lynam off the mark at the Curragh on Sunday is obviously encouraging.

Central Arch, a half-sister to ultra-smart stable companion, Central House, gets the nod in the Mares Bumper.

She had far from a clear passage when third on her debut to Gifted Approach at Punchestown and is preferred to Society Breeze, a promising fourth to highly rated Green Peach at Naas.

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