Getting him in order: Enda Bolger runs cross-country ace Josies over hurdles
The most valuable race of the day at Cork, the 2m handicap hurdle (1.55), is a fascinating affair – for a few very strange reasons.
Lite Duties returns from 1,070 days off the track but, perhaps more importantly, the race acts as a crucial outing for one of the leading contenders at the Cheltenham Festival in the shape of Josies Orders.
Only last year's winner Cause Of Causes is shorter than Josies Orders in the market for the Glenfarclas Cross Country Chase, and Enda Bolger believes the ten-year-old is without doubt his number one hope in the race.
Bolger said: "We're running Josies to get him fit. He's taking longer than usual to get fit. He'll run here, then at Punchestown in February in the PP Hogan races over the banks. He's very much our number one for Cheltenham."
Lite Duties was last seen finishing third in a handicap hurdle at Punchestown on the first day of February way back in 2015 and Charles Byrnes thought we had seen the last of the nine-year-old.
The trainer said: "He picked up a very bad tendon injury at Punchestown and I never thought we'd get him back. It's been a day-by-day thing."
Byrnes is also represented by Indian Monsoon and added: "He's in good form and won't mind the ground at all. He ran well last time at Limerick in a good race so I'm hoping he'll run well."
In-form Leahy chasing more euros
Austin Leahy sent out three winners for JP McManus last month, including Wait Here, who faces five rivals in the McCarthy Insurance Group Rated Hurdle (12.20) at Cork.
The five-year-old won a novice hurdle at Limerick before finishing second in another novice event at the track's Christmas meeting.
Leahy said: "Wait Here is in good form. He came out of his last run well, and while he was well held by the winner last time he finished a long way clear of the rest.
"He handles testing ground and Cork is a good, fair track and one we've had some good luck at over the years."
Edvardo bravo? Woollacott aiming to justify Smarkets support at Wincanton
Betting exchange Smarkets make their first foray into sponsorship by backing all six races at Wincanton, the last three being shown live on ITV4.
The likely favourite in the finale, the Smarkets Handicap Hurdle (3.45), is Edvardo, who is making just his second start for trainer Richard Woollacott.
The ex-Irish-trained runner put in an encouraging first effort for new connections when chasing home Padleyourowncanoe at Exeter in November.
Woollacott said: "Edvardo ran quite a nice first race for us and if he wins this he'll win more than he cost us to buy him. We could have gone for a smaller race but he has a low weight so we though we'd give this better race a go."
He added: "We felt he'd come on for his run at Exeter and he seems to have moved forward since then, and we're hopeful he'll handle the ground."
Kentucky Derby trail starts in California
The Kentucky Derby countdown starts early in the States when Bob Baffert-trained McKinzie, somewhat fortunate to remain unbeaten after two starts, sets out on the west-coast route to Churchill Downs in the Grade 3 Sham Stakes at Santa Anita (10.30pm GMT, live on At The Races).
The son of Derby winner Street Sense, who needed help from the stewards to win the Grade 1 Los Alamitos Futurity last month, is generally available at 20-1 with British bookmakers for America's most celebrated race on May 5.
Sent off odds-on favourite on his second start at Los Alamitos, McKinzie was second past the post only for the 'winner', his stablemate Solomini, to be demoted for interference with third-placed Instilled Regard.
Mike Smith retains the ride on McKinzie, who is named after the late Brad McKinzie, a well-known figure at Los Alamitos who died last year.
His half-dozen opponents, all of whom have a bit to find on form, are headed by stablemate Mourinho and Godolphin’s City Plan, who won a minor stakes event on the all-weather at Golden Gate.
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