This afternoon's Irish racing is something of a rarity with Thurles hosting a Sunday card, the meeting switched from midweek in light of next month's Dublin Racing Festival. Hopefully the track will get a decent crowd today though the weather may put paid to that; I suspect the typical Thurles Thursday crowd of industry people, retirees and locals would be quite happy to have the place to themselves!
The Kinloch Brae has turned out a disappointing race in light of the recent winners and the early declarations but the novice hurdle at 13:50 seems almost worthy of graded class. Articulum might the be the horse with most start potential in the field - his Cork win was achieved in a particularly fast time - but faces no easy task against the likes of Dom Dolo and Discorama.
Thurles 14:50 - Experienced Phil suited by ground and trip
American Tom is getting weight from more than half the field but he is not a horse I like; his return at Naas was encouraging to a degree but he stopped quickly in the straight which didn't suggest that he wanted a step up in trip. Furthermore, he has been off 71 days, something that fits in with his overall fragile profile and his jumping can be erratic.
We know where we are with A Toi Phil by now and this is his level. Trips of around two-and-a-half miles on soft ground are what he wants and he has put up some decent time-figures this season when winning at Gowran in September and when fourth in the John Durkan. His second at Tramore last time was only fair but the tight track wouldn't have suited and he looks overpriced at odds-against in a race where he is the class horse.
Thurles 15:20 - Freshened up Miss Eyecatcher is overpriced
Gordon Elliott backs Dinaria Des Obeaux up quite quickly after a disappointing run at Christmas and while this is clearly a much softer race she makes no appeal around 2.01/1; her jumping fell apart at Leopardstown and will need to be better here. Nor does Kate Appleby Shoes interest me; she clearly has a big engine but she was awkward at most of her fences on chase debut and won a race where only three completed.
At the prices, Miss Eyecatcher is worth a small bet. She's been a very likeable mare through her career, doing particularly well in bumpers and over fences, and it could be a plus that she comes here off a break; she had plenty of racing between summer and autumn last year and a few of her recent wins have come after a period off the track. Dinaria Des Obeaux hammered her in November but we may not be getting the same version of either mare here and the selection has a chance to upset the fancied runners.
Thurles 15:50 - Hood can help Nobody come Home
Really deep ground is a worry for Nobody Home but he strung a number of good efforts together in 2017 and might be able to start this year with a win. The reapplication of the hood looks a big addition given how keen he was a Leopardstown last time and despite this being a high grade of race it looks less competitive. The form of his penultimate chase start at Kilbeggan beating A Sizing Network has proved strong, that horse 17lbs higher in the weights now, while his hurdling efforts behind the well-treated pair Artic Pearl and Out Of The Loop are solid too.
There are a few horses in this field that are potentially well-treated like Oscar Lantern and Minella Till Dawn but you never know where you are with such runners until late in the day and the biggest danger could be Cappacurry Zak; the cheekpieces seem to have gotten some improvement out of him and he comes here in good form.
2018 P+L: +2.85 points