The feature race at Punchestown on Wednesday is the 2m 4f Grade 3 Quevega Mares Hurdle (13:40). From a field of five, top weight Elfile appeals most.
This six-year-old is trained by Willie Mullins and five from 11 under Rules. Elfile is a course and distance winner at Listed level on better ground, but proved she handled a softer surface when scoring on reappearance at Thurles.
After beating the re-opposing Black Tears on her debut for Mullins here last January, the daughter of Saint Des Saints chased home Honeysuckle in a Grade 1 at Fairyhouse over Easter.
The winner has since won again twice at the highest level, so Elfile did well to stick on well and only be beaten 5 1/2 lengths.
She came out and bolted up by 10 lengths at the Punchestown Festival here on her final start of last term.
Elfile chased home thriving stable companion Stormy Ireland in this grade at Leopardstown last time out. She not only confirmed Thurles form with My Sister Sarah, but again beat Black Tears.
This is the softest ground Elfile has encountered, but she could resume winning ways here at 11/4 with Betfred despite giving weight all-round.
Fellow Mullins mount Laurina has failed to sparkle when pulled-up on her last two starts over fences. Something has looked amiss with the impressive 2018 Dawn Run winner.
This return to hurdles is interesting, but it’s easy to oppose Laurina in spite of being top rated at 4/5 with 888Sport for the Quevega Mares Hurdle.
Black Tears stayed on superbly to win a graded handicap at the Dublin Racing Festival last time out, but does have something to find with Elfile. That is reflected in odds of 9/2 with BetVictor here.
High Sparrow and Royal Thief punts in Pertemps Qualifier
In the 3m Pertemps Handicap Hurdle Qualifier (15:15), it could be worth hedging your bets on High Sparrow and Royal Thief.
The former is trained by the in-form Joseph O’Brien and has useful 7lb claimer Oakley Brown taking the ride.
High Sparrow is a seven-year-old course winner who was fifth in another Pertemps Qualifier at Leopardstown over Christmas behind enterprising front-runner Treacyenniscorthy.
The winner has since followed-up in a graded handicap at the same venue. A son of Shantou, High Sparrow filled the same spot in that race at the Dublin Racing Festival.
The return to a softer surface and ease in grade are both pluses here.
The O’Brien stable is back among the winners in recent days on a 27 per cent strike rate during the last fortnight at the time of writing.
High Sparrow is each-way value at 11/1 with William Hill for this.
Royal Thief is a lightly-raced six-year-old who runs in first-time cheekpieces for trainer Henry De Bromhead here.
He has won two of his last three starts landing a maiden and then rated novice hurdles around Thurles.
The extra furlong looked to suit Royal Thief last time out, so a further step up in trip may be no problem.
De Bromhead and jockey Rachael Blackmore remain in fine form, so if the headgear has the desired effect, he could be thrown in at the weights on handicap debut off 129.
Odds of 7/2 with Paddy Power say Royal Thief can follow-up on his bow in this sphere. This Fame And Glory gelding is still open to plenty of further progress.