Theophilus can take the closing race on a tricky card this afternoon at Punchestown.
Dessie McDonogh’s gelding looked a smart recruit to hurdling when making a winning debut at Leopardstown’s Christmas Festival in 2014, but wasn’t seen over obstacles again until Limerick, just a couple of weeks ago.
Having looked to have lost his form on the flat in the summer, he showed signs of a return to form when a close eighty behind Silver Concorde in the November Handicap, and that augured well for his return to jumping. However, he proved no match for potentially very smart Dicosimo. Outpaced when the action heated up for the first time, he stayed on stoutly to take second place behind the easy winner.
Although this race comes quite quickly after that effort, the Teofilo gelding should appreciate the step up to two and a half miles.
With plenty of scope for improvement, he can prove too progressive for his rivals.
The danger may come from Diamond King, who was unlucky to run into the well-handicapped Blue Hell last time.
He looks a nice prospect to go chasing with in the future, but there are hurdle races to be won with him in the meantime.
Min will be sent off a very short-priced favourite to land the Grade 2 Moscow Flyer Novice Hurdle, and anything less than a comprehensive victory will be disappointing for those who have backed him to win the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival.
He looked very smart when making a winning start for Willie Mullins, and this does not look the strongest of races for the grade.
It’s a shame Tombstone, who finished a close second behind Long Dog in a Grade 1 at Leopardstown, has not been declared for the race, as he would have provided a real test and a good gauge of Min’s current ability.
In his absence, it looks a straight-forward task for the Mullins runner.
The selection’s stable companions and subsequent Supreme Novice Hurdle winners Douvan and Vautour justified odds-on favourite in the last two runnings of this race, and Min should follow suit en route to the same race at Cheltenham.
Shannak gets the nap to take the two-and-a-half-mile handicap hurdle at Fairyhouse tomorrow.
Tony Mullins’ horse posted an improved effort in similarly testing conditions at Leopardstown last time out, and that effort signalled a winning turn would not be far away.
He may have been a little unlucky not to get closer to winner Ice Cold Soul, as that rival was well positioned throughout and the two rapidly pulled away from the field in the closing stages.
Shannak has been raised six pounds for that defeat, but it shouldn’t be enough to prevent him making the breakthrough. Jack Slade looks the best alternative.
Lake Field can make amends for his recent spill at Limerick by taking the two-mile handicap hurdle at Tramore.
The seven-year-old has struck form with a vengeance and, after being touched off by Micras at Thurles, ran out a very easy winner at this track.
He was all set to follow up when a couple clear approaching the last at Limerick last time, but tipped up at the back of the obstacle and handed the race to Black Ice.
Although upped 4lbs since, he looks progressive enough to bounce straight back to winning ways here.
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