Kilbeggan's 2017 programme kicks off on Friday, April 21, and the opening day meeting has attracted some top entries from the country's finest yards. Both Willie Mullins and Gordon Elliott have entered horses on the seven-race card, but it could be the Meath man coming out on top on this occasion. He has entered a host of horses, and may well find a couple of winners at the Westmeath track, a venue that often throws up the odd surprise result.
The opening 17:00 Maiden Hurdle over 2M 3F could produce somewhat of a shock as I fancy the 8/1 rated GREAT KHAN. He is sixth in the betting pecking order, but the Edward O'Grady trained six-year-old has some really eye-catching form in the book. Disregarding his most recent start in December when he was more than 40 lengths behind MINELLA FAIR at Limerick, his previous run was a cracker. On December 3 in Limerick, he was nine lengths behind Willie Mullins' KEMBOY, but O'Grady's charge did carry 11st 12lbs that day as opposed to KEMBOY's 11st 9lbs. That was on good to yielding ground, and the going at Kilbeggan on Friday is slated as being good, but could be a little bit sticky having taken some rain. KEMBOY went on from that to be six-lengths second to the all-conquering Willie Mullins mare LET'S DANCE in January, and followed that again with a fifth at the Cheltenham festival behind WILLOUGHBY COURT in the Neptune. Paul Townend is a good booking for GREAT KHAN (8/1) on Friday and with ground conditions perfect, he could be fresh after a break, and primed to land the spoils. KOLUMBUS is the favourite for Willie Mullins, but after some good form behind BACARDYS at Christmas, he's been difficult to win with, and was miles behind JIMMY BREEKIE at Navan earlier this month.
The 17:35 race looks like Gordon Elliott's for the taking. He saddles the warm order favourite, ICARIO (EVENS) while also running A SHIN IMPALA. ICARIO is a class apart in this one, and should oblige. He'll probably go off shorter than EVENS on the day when the money will undoubtedly arrive. I was slightly disappointed in his most recent run in March when he was third behind HOLLY FIGHT at Downpatrick, but he was coming back that day after a fall at Cheltenham, and may have just shown caution at his hurdles. ICARIO ran in the Fred Winter at Cheltenham but fell at the eighth when seemingly improving through the field, but it's fair to say he was an outsider and wouldn't have troubled the eventual winner, FLYING ANGEL. His only other run on Friday's going (good) was last November in Fairyhouse, where he ran very well to be fifth, just eight lengths in arrears to LANDOFHOPEANDGLORY, who went on to better races. He seems to give his running on all surfaces, but this drying ground at Kilbeggan will suit him and with Bryan Cooper on his back, he could run away with it. CREATIVE TALENT (3/1) from Andy McNamara's yard is the main threat, and Andy's string have been in good form of late, a point proven in good style by VAL DE FERBET winning at Cork on Easter Sunday.
Perhaps the best each-way bet on the card on Friday is BOOKATBEDTIME (20/1) for Gordon Elliott in the 18:05 contest. All the hype here will be centred on another of Elliott's runners, FRIDAYNIGHTLIGHTS (13/8), who will be popular because of his name with casual punters, and on the back of his win over Easter at the Fairyhouse festival. This comes a bit quick for him, less than a week later, and therefore the 13/8 looks a bit tight. BOOKATBEDTIME (20/1) is an interesting UK recruit having his first run for Gordon Elliott. He left Keith Reveley's yard in recent months and it's significant that he's made the journey across the Irish Sea. He hasn't run since December when he put in a good run at Newcastle, as well as one fairly disappointing one at the same track. He carries plenty of weight here, but the booking of a seven-pound claimer will reduce that burden and he could get competitive at a huge price. The odds of 20/1 will probably get snapped up as casual each-way backers will be attracted by the name of Elliott on the card.