ITV Racing will be covering six races from Naas with the Irish track the only surviving meeting due to the outbreak of equine influenza in England. It’s disappointing that we don’t get to enjoy races like the Betfair hurdle but horses welfare is the most important thing and there is still plenty of good action to be enjoyed at Naas.
The opening maiden hurdle sees the very classy bumper horse Debuchet try to get his head in front over hurdles for the first time. Mags Mullins’ inmate looked like one of the best bumper horses in training when finishing second in the Cheltenham bumper in 2017. He has come up against some very useful since tackling hurdles and if he can’t win this contest then connections will be very disappointed.
Charles Byrnes does particularly well with flat recruits going jumping and Sky Marshal looks a likeable sort. The son of Lawman was rated 74 on the flat for Ed Walker and showed strong potential to finish second at Fairyhouse last month. If the real Debuchet turns up then another placing looks on the cards.
Others with chances include bumper winner Drop The Anchor and the Willie Mullins trained Pont Aven.
The second division of the maiden hurdle looks the weaker of the pair with Advantage Point the likely favourite having won a bumper and running a fine race to finish third in a maiden hurdle at Naas when last seen. However this contest may go the way of All For Joy who’s finished second on all bar one his starts on the track and with the application of the hood likely to help this former point to point winner, he can finally get his head in front.
Others of note include Fauguernon who ran well on debut and the nicely bred Western Doyen.
Selection: All For Joy
Willie Mullins has won two of the last three runnings of the Listed Opera Hat Chase and should do son again with Pravalaguna. The seven-year-old mare was a taking winner of a chase at Limerick over Christmas when beating Moyhenna and looks the in-form horse here. Synopsis was a good winner of a mares chase around Cheltenham in December but was bitterly disappointing at Huntingdon and looks susceptible to an improver.
Of the remainder, Mrs Lovett is a likeable mare but may not have the class to feature and the top weight Bale Des Isles has the ability to play a leading had but may struggle to give over a stone to the favourite.
Only six horses go to post in the Novice hurdle and it’s the Joseph O’Brien’s Konitho that looks the one to beat. The French import was a taking winner on Irish debut over course and distance. It’s another O’Brien inmate that may prove the biggest danger, Band Of Outlaws who won well over Christmas. Prior to that run, he had finished behind Maze Runner at Cork but he seems to be on an upward curve.
All of the other four runners would have some sort of a chance and in truth, it’s a race I would watch with an eye on the future rather than getting involved.
The 0-130 handicap chase looks very tricky with any number of horses having chances. Velocity Boy carries top weight in this and although he’s run some very good races, these have all come on softer ground and he will be seen in greater light if and when the rain comes. Bilbo Bagins will be many people’s idea of the winner having finished in the places on his last two starts but he runs here off an 8 pound higher mark than his last winning mark and I think he may struggle.
Ask Nile is my idea of the winner, he was a beaten favourite when last seen but off a feasible mark and with first-time blinkers on, I think he can add to his modest strike rate.
Selection: Ask Nile
The Adare Manor Opportunity handicap hurdle is the final race being brought to viewers on Saturday and it’s a typically open handicap. The most likely winner may be Thereisnodoubt who was a comfortable winner at Clonmel last time out and the form of that run received a boost with the runner-up winning since.
Joseph O’Brien is represented by four runners in this with the chief among them being Leave Your Mark who’s having his first run in a handicap and looks fairly treated on his maiden hurdle form.
The sponsors also hold strong claims with She’s Made It, who’s been placed on his last five starts but frustratingly for his supporters he’s been a beaten favourite on four of these occasions. Liam Gilligan continues the partnership and he must go close.