We've entered the pre-Festival twilight zone where it becomes difficult to distinguish noise from real insight; all the trials have been run and the preview night panels have nothing more to discuss than rumours of bad pieces of work and less than ideal preparations.
One such incident happened at Leopardstown's post-racing gallops on Sunday as Ballycasey fell in a schooling session; there is no way this can be spun positively and it added to the case that he's one to oppose in the RSA Chase. His keenness is a concern over the three-mile trip as is his lack of experience and now jumping has been added to the list.
The English challenge looks weak with the limited Sam Winner tying in with many of their big chances and the race to concentrate on looks the Topaz Novice Chase from Leopardstown in December. Carlingford Lough and Morning Assembly fought that one out and they are worth dutching here; the pace was slow but they put a lot of ground between themselves and the rest from the back of the last and the form has proved strong, the four behind them all running well since. Neither is flashy but that's just the type required for this.
In as much as I have a banker for the week, Felix Yonger is probably it in the JLT Novices' Chase, the opener on Thursday. The case for him is simple; he has the best form on offer by dint of his defeats of Defy Logic and Trifolium earlier in the season and has found the deep ground against him the last twice, his connections long adamant he likes it on top. He could find this intermediate trip to his liking and his previous Festival form is another boost for a race the Irish have yet to lose.
Irish runners head the market in the Arkle but I am against both Champagne Fever and Trifolium. For a horse so short in the betting, Champagne Fever has a lot of doubts to overcome; his chase form isn't good enough to win, he has had an interrupted preparation and his jumping is questionable. He does have past Festival form but even that is not as good as my fancy for the race. Trifolium has fewer holes but the Irish Arkle he won last time fell apart; Defy Logic burst, Felix Yonger didn't handle the ground, Mozoltov may have needed it while Mallowney fell.
Rock On Ruby is my idea of the winner. The class act of the field over hurdles in a race where highly rated hurdlers excel, his Festival pedigree is superior to that of Champagne Fever and he turns up at the meeting better the ever each year. Harry Fry has had a brilliant season, operating at an obscene 35% strike-rate in 2013/14, and his easy defeat of Mister Mole last time reads well for just a second chase start. The lack of chase experience is a worry but it's about the only one and he looks overpriced.
On the whole, the novice hurdles are less appealing betting mediums than the chases. Willie Mullins has a heavily fancied runner in both the Neptune and the Albert Bartlett but neither is bombproof.
Faugheen doesn't jump with any alacrity and can race very freely while Briar Hill is the opposite and should he repeat his lazy tendencies at Cheltenham he could find himself too far back. His supporters will hang their case on his brilliant 2013 Champion Bumper win but there have been enough flat spots this year to leave him alone.
In the same colours, Sure Reef would be one to keep onside should he go for a novice hurdle; the form of his last win isn't up to much but he did very well to come from rear off a slow pace. The Coral Cup may be on his agenda however.
The Supreme looks more of a betting race where Wicklow Brave is the selection. His jumping was terrible last time but it's hard to knock a horse on just his second hurdles start and his defeat of the decent Gigginstown pair Lieutenant Colonel and Real Steel is form that puts him right in the mix. Natural improvement for an inexperienced hurdler seems likely and when that is coupled with his preference for better ground he looks the value play.
This season's juvenile hurdlers haven't fired the imagination but there'll be a winner of the Triumph Hurdle all the same and small split stakes on Activial and Tiger Roll is my way into the race. Activial won what has proved the key trial for this race at Kempton and should go close if taking his chance while Tiger Roll was giving Guitar Pete a race before a mistake at the last in the Spring Juvenile Hurdle and has scope for huge improvement with that being just his second racecourse start.
The Champion Bumper is one of those races where you often just fancy one; very few if any of the protagonists will have run against each other beforehand and using collateral form to compare slowly run bumpers is difficult.
One horse that has run very quickly however his Killultagh Vic and I was really impressed with how he beat last year's third Golantilla at Naas; the runner-up was strong in the market that day suggesting he was pretty forward for one coming off a break. Killultagh Vic trounced him though and shapes like one that will be all the better off a fast pace and looks a big price at double figure odds.
Back Carlingford Lough at 9.08/1 & Morning Assembly at 8.615/2 in the RSA Chase at 14:05
Back Felix Yonger at 6.25/1 in the JLT at 13:30
Back Rock On Ruby at 5.85/1 in the Arkle at 14:05
Back Wicklow Brave at 9.417/2 in the Supreme at 13:30
Back Activial at 100.099/1 and Tiger Roll at 13.012/1 in the Triumph Hurdle
Back Killultagh Vic 8.88/1 in the Champion Bumper at 17:15
Check out Tony's Irish view on the Grade One races