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Some of the biggest names in National Hunt racing strut their stuff in Fairyhouse on Sunday. Envoi Allen bids to continue his winning sequence in the Drinmore Novice Chase. As the odds suggest, he should win comfortably, while Honeysuckle is another winning machine. She goes for back-to-back wins in the Hatton’s Grace.
Fury Road won’t prove a pushover, but ultimately the mare should have too many gears for him. The weather looks set fair so we should be looking at yielding ground. Here are some selections that will hopefully thrive in the conditions.
We kick off at noon with a Mares handicap chase. Having backed The Caddy Rose for the Cork National, I was tempted to chance her again in this lower grade, but she ran deplorably that day though. She also looked ill at ease on this track last season, so FIVEAFTERMIDNIGHT rates the selection.
This mare comes with risks too. She’s inconsistent, and this race represents a hike in class – she does look well handicapped though. Her second in Leopardstown last Christmas is strong form and she races off a 3lbs higher mark here. Her recent comeback over hurdles was most encouraging and with the cheekpieces back on, we will hopefully see improvement here. Given her patchy profile, I will play win only.
Paddy make Saint Sam favourite for the juvenile hurdle and that’s understandable. The French import for Willie Mullins is always eye-catching and he will need to be smart to concede 4lbs to a couple of promising sorts though.
DRUID’S ALTAR looks overpriced to me and he made a winning debut over hurdles in Punchestown. Ilmig, a horse I rate quite highly, was second. Given how well Ilmig jumped that day, I expected a comfortable win.
Druid’s Altar turned him away in ready fashion and his jumping was pretty good, but I’d expect some improvement here. Ideally, he probably wants a stiffer test of stamina and the horse looks likely to make the running. If JJ Slevin makes this a decent test, I expect the opposition to kneel before the Altar.
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Ballyadam will be very hard to beat in the Royal Bond Novice Hurdle and I will chance a few quid on ANNEXATION in the betting without the fav market. I put this horse up in Navan a couple of weeks ago. Unfortunately, my weather forecaster put me away that day and Annexation ran a screamer given the heavy ground.
Indeed, he’d nearly have won but for a mistake at the last. N’golo, the winner that day, is actually 4lbs better off with Annexation here. This quicker ground, and sharper track, will really play to my selection’s strengths though. I expect him to turn that form around, even if Annexation is inclined to be keen. This race does promise to be run at a decent gallop. If his energy can be conserved, Annexation should be finishing faster than most.
The Porterstown Handicap is a competitive affair, where Paddy throw a couple of extra places our way. That’s enough to tempt me in. DEATH DUTY will never live up to his initial promise, but there have been signs since his comeback that suggest he can go close here. He ran well for a long way in a hot handicap at the Cheltenham festival and he finished the season with a respectable effort behind Bachasson.
He made his seasonal comeback in Navan a couple of weeks ago. Though ultimately well beaten, he again travelled well for most of the race. Plenty of Gordon Elliot’s have needed their first run of this campaign and I’d expect Death Duty to strip fitter here. The handicapper has dropped him another 1lb in the weights, so he rates a sporting wager.
I’m hoping that Elliot’s second time up system will strike twice and ECLAIR DE BEAUFEU lines up in the valuable handicap hurdle here. The case for this horse is obvious, he’s rated north of 150 over fences but gets to compete off 135 here. His last handicap hurdle run came in the County at Cheltenham.
He was still in with a chance when coming down at the last and he made his reappearance in a graded chase in Navan recently. He was beaten when again falling at the last, but this is a much less taxing assignment. As mentioned earlier, I’m hopeful he will come on for that run too.
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