Game's up at Thurles
Ashley Iveson thinks Willie Mullins has found the perfect opportunity for Midnight Game to win for the second time this season on Sunday.
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THURLES: 12.30 Lord Lir, 1.00 Another Flutter, 1.30 MIDNIGHT GAME (NAP), 2.00 Unika La Reconce, 2.30 Nashville Swing, 3.00 Playing, 3.30 Goldboy.
DOUBLE: Midnight Game and Goldboy
Willie Mullins appears to have found Midnight Game the perfect opportunity to register his second victory of the season in the Horse and Jockey Hotel Hurdle at Thurles.
A fair sort on the Flat in France as a three-year-old, he was snapped up by leading owners Gigginstown House Stud at Arqana in October 2010 for the not-insignificant fee of 185,000 euros.
The son of Montjeu enjoyed a decent novice campaign over hurdles last season, winning on a couple of occasions, but failed to make the grade when stepped up to better company at the major Festivals in the spring.
However, there was much to like about his comeback victory at Fairyhouse at the start of this month, with the way he travelled and jumped suggesting a summer's rest had done him no harm.
While only time will tell whether he can go on to make his presence felt in Graded company this term, this Listed event looks the ideal stepping-stone as he has upwards of 10lb in hand at the ratings over his four opponents.
The champion trainer has every chance of striking again in the Gift Horse Gallery Horse & Jockey Hotel Mares Maiden Hurdle as he unleashes French recruit Unika La Reconce.
The four-year-old ran well in decent company across the Channel and having presumably cost a bob or two, connections are likely to be disappointed if she does not go close to winning on her first start in Ireland.
Playing looked a really smart horse when striking at Clonmel just over a fortnight ago and must be followed in the Exit 6 to The Horse & Jockey Novice Handicap Hurdle.
Another French import, the nine-year-old was well held on his Irish bow in the summer of 2011 and was then sidelined for well over a year, until his recent return.
Despite the absence, Playing was well fancied for his comeback and cruised clear of his rivals in the style of a seriously well-handicapped horse.
The assessor has bumped him up 9lb for that but he looks capable of running up a sequence if connections can keep him sound.
The bumper is an interesting affair, with the Mullins-trained Goldboy likely to be all the rage in the betting.
He was not beaten far into fourth when sent off favourite for a valuable bumper at the Punchestown Festival on his debut and that form sets a high standard in the context of this race.