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FLANKING MANEUVER was progressive in bumpers and shaped encouragingly after 10 weeks off when second on his recent hurdling debut at Navan, sticking to his task well to be beaten just three-quarters of a length. The first two pulled well clear of the rest, both looking smart prospects, and Flanking Maneuver showed enough to suggest it’s only a matter of time before he’s winning races in this sphere, especially when you factor in his scope for more improvement.
ROYAL KAHALA has won her last two starts at Fairyhouse, routing the opposition in a bumper in November and then making a smooth transition to jumping on her hurdling debut 10 days later. She showed an impressive turn of foot last time, quickening clear on the run-in to land the spoils by 6-and-a-half lengths. This will be tougher now taking on some more-experienced rivals, but she remains with potential and is fancied to prove equal to the task.
CRASSUS shaped as if still in good form when second on the Flat at Dundalk last time, so he could be the way to go in a race where plenty of them have questions to answer. His last appearance in this sphere saw him win a juvenile maiden at Limerick in comfortable fashion, just needing to be driven out to win by a length-and-a-half. He looks on a fair mark now handicapping, with the booking of Lisa O’Neill also catching the eye.
HAPPIE DAYS resumed his progress and probably should have won when second on his latest outing at this course. He moved to the front on the home turn, but a mistake at the last caused him to lose all momentum before being collared in the final 100 yards (beaten a length and three-quarters). He is only 3lbs higher here and should mount a bold bid to gain compensation if arriving in the same sort of form.
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SALSARETTA won all four starts over fences last season, culminating with an easy success in Grade 2 company at Limerick in March. She was sent off the 5/2-on favourite and duly got the job done with the minimum of fuss, cruising clear after being left in front two out to win by 11 lengths. She is already smart and may yet have more to offer, so this looks a good opportunity for her to get back on track after making it no further than the first on her reappearance at Punchestown.
ANTEY could be another winner here for Willie Mullins, who is seeking his third victory in this contest since 2016. Antey hasn’t looked a natural over fences, but he showed he has the ability to win a race of this nature when falling in successive starts last season – looking likely to have played a part in the finish both times. He is entitled to strip fitter for his reappearance at Gowran Park and rates very much the one to beat if cutting out the jumping errors.
GINTO is likely to be a warm order on his Rules debut, such was the impression he created when winning sole start in points. He was subsequently bought for €470,000 and is seemingly held in very high regard by trainer Gordon Elliott. It will be disappointing if he can’t win this bumper on his way to bigger and better things.
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