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We head into the first weekend of March in good form having found seven winners from eight runners last Saturday and Sunday. It was a good February overall with a monthly winning strike-rate of 43%, so hopefully a few more winners can be found in the build-up to Cheltenham. Manitopark Aa is my first selection this weekend despite having been turned over at odds-on when fifth for Willie Mullins at this venue in December and second at Fairyhouse in mid-January.
The French import is handed one final chance to get off the mark over hurdles under Paul Townend with the ever-drying ground hopefully helping her chances today. The form of her recent second at Fairyhouse reads well with both La Chanteuse and Norwigi both subsequent winners last month. Santa Rossa is the obvious danger with some lovely bumper form in the book, but Dermot McLoughlin’s mare hasn’t raced in well over a year.
The feature Flyingbolt Novice Chase looks a match between the two Gigginstown owned runners, Epsom Du Houx and my selection Scarlet And Dove. Epson Du Houx returns after a break for Henry de Bromhead following a poor run at Leopardstown last month. The seven-year-old runs off a 138 rating again today and previously beat Jack Hackett when scoring at Naas in January. He’s more than capable of going close but giving away 7lbs to Joseph O’Brien’s mare might be too much to handle.
The drop down in trip won’t be a concern for the daughter of Jeremy having previously won over this distance in both her bumper and maiden hurdle victories. She gets the vote to score having done well in four starts over fences to date, including a lovely display when winning at Limerick over Christmas. She wasn’t disgraced when travelling upsides Colreevy before falling under Donagh Meyler at the second last in her latest start in graded company at Thurles in late January.
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Jordan Gainford has been in excellent form in recent weeks and the booking of the young jockey by Robert Tyner for Exit To The West looks the key to this closing handicap chase. The seven-year-old has been a model of consistency and an extremely versatile mare, with victories in a point to point at Nenagh, a handicap hurdle at Listowel and a beginners chase at Cork. She runs in a handicap over fences for the first time having finished second to Klassy Kay in a handicap hurdle in mid-January.
The daughter of Westerner runs off an opening handicap mark over fences of 116 and she’s also done well at this trip in the past. Sovereign Gold has been raised 2lbs for her second at Naas, while Askann is another player following consistent placed runs at Fairyhouse, Down Royal, Punchestown and Leopardstown. Reine Fee is another clearly in the mix for Shane Crawley, but the 7lb claim of Jordan Gainford could make all the difference in what looks a competitive finale on the card.
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