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A massive field for the opening maiden hurdle at Naas where plenty of horses with experience and several interesting newcomers do battle. COLTOR represents Dermot Weld and is a tentative selection to see off the opposition with Paul Townend taking over from Jack Kennedy. The son of Free Eagle proved his ability to handle underfoot conditions when wining his maiden on the flat at Killarney last October and should be knocking on the door for victory today.
He stayed on best for second when turned over behind the impressive French Aseel at Leopardstown over Christmas, before finishing fourth at Punchestown earlier this month. He’ll hopefully reverse the form with Zoffanien on that run and should be a player in a very wide-open contest. Noel Meade’s horses are running well this month and perhaps Charlie Bassett could improve having been well beaten behind Coltor in Foxrock.
Joseph O’Brien won this race with a French import in 2019 and runs Halifax on his Irish debut following a second-place finish at Landivisiau last October. Persia brings some decent flat form to the table on his hurdles debut for the same team, having previously finished second in the Eyefield Stakes and winning a conditions event at Chelmsford. Elsewhere, Sheer Bravado also did well on the flat for Jim Bolger and now runs for Steve Mahon with Showbusiness and Toughari also in the frame.
BEACON EDGE stands out as one of the best bets on the card in the Limestone Lad Hurdle for Noel Meade and Sean Flanagan. The Gigginstown owned runner has good form in the book, having raced behind Envoi Allen, Colreevy, Jason The Militant and more recently Honeysuckle at Fairyhouse in November. The horse returns from a break and is top-rated on 154 following a battling third-place finish to Honeysuckle in the Hatton’s Grace Hurdle.
He previously returned from an absence by winning a conditions hurdle at Downpatrick last October, before getting the better of Grand Roi at Galway later that month. The drop-in trip shouldn’t be a concern having narrowly been touched off behind Jason The Militant and Cedarwood Road at this venue in novice company last spring. It’s also positive to see the Noel Meade stable in cracking form at present with Daly Tiger, Curious Bride and Thedevilscoachman all winning this month.
Grand Roi enhanced the form for Beacon Edge by winning impressively at Limerick over Christmas for Gordon Elliott. The five-year-old had been a consistent performer in the UK for Nicky Henderson before been purchased for new-owners, Noel and Valerie Moran at Goffs for £400,000. Elsewhere, Coeur Sublime drops in grade after runs in the Morgiana and Matheson hurdles this season, while Bachasson might find the shorter trip and going left-handed a negative on this occasion.
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Mouse Morris and the O’Flynn family have a good chance of securing another winner this week following success with Sams Profile at Gowran Park on Thursday. LIMESTONE ROCK only started his career last month with a surprising second-place finish in a Leopardstown bumper over Christmas. His opening start over hurdles wasn’t a bad performance either when finishing third to On Eagles Wings and Captain Kangaroo at this track earlier this month.
That experience and the ability to handle testing conditions while stepping up in trip are positives for the son of Leading Light under Phillip Enright. El Barra is an obvious danger for Willie Mullins despite disappointing on his hurdles debut at Leopardstown. The son of Racinger was second to Fury Road in a point-to-point and was a good winner of a Thurles bumper last November. The experienced Il Courra, Old Town Garde for Gordon Elliott and Kilbree Warrior are others who might get involved.
PENCILFULLOFLEAD is another standout selection for Gordon Elliott and Robbie Power in this Grade 3 staying novice chase. Despite giving weight away to all rivals, the seven-year-olds form over fences this season stands out and has been enhanced twice already this week. The Robcour owned runner won his Beginners Chase at Galway over a staying trip last October with stable-mate and second Coko Beach claiming the Thyestes Chase for the Elliott yard at Gowran Park on Thursday.
The son of Shantou followed up that victory with graded success at Punchestown in November, beaten Paul Nolan’s Latest Exhibition, who afterwards finished second to Monkfish over Christmas. The sixth horse, Court Maid came out and won the Porterstown at Fairyhouse and was third in a big handicap at Cheltenham last month for Tom Mullins.
His chasing form is rock solid, including his recent second when given weight away to Colreevy at Limerick over Christmas. The Willie Mullins trained mare following up again at Thurles earlier this week and looks set for the Paddy Power Mares Chase at Cheltenham. The return to a longer distance is positive for Pencilfulloflead who can return to winning ways under Robbie Power today.
The Cullentra House team also saddle Escaria Ten for the McNeill family having won easy at Thurles last month, while Eklat De Rire looked a nice staying type when winning on his chasing debut at Punchestown last month. Henry de Bromhead also runs Eleazar Des Neiges who was beaten by Forza Milan at Fairyhouse with Eurobot an interesting contender for Noel Meade having unseated at behind Monkfish at Leopardstown.
The action at Naas ends with a cracking Hunters Chase where BILLAWAY is hoping to follow up again for Willie and Patrick Mullins after success last year. The son of Well Chosen has been a model of consistency and hasn’t finished outside the first two places since March 2019. He saw off several of this opposition, including Staker Wallace in comfortable fashion here last year, before staying on for second in the Foxhunters at Cheltenham in March behind It Came To Paas.
The Eugene O’Sullivan runner needs to reverse the form with Billyaway following their comeback runs at Fairyhouse last November behind Stand Up And Fight. Winged Leader, Aloneamongmillions and Solomn Grundy all renew rivalries after Billaway saw them off when winning at Down Royal last month. The Mullins team also run Dragon D’Estruval with Dom Dolo, Lite Duties and On The Sod all recent winners, while Templebredin is hoping to improve again following victory at Clonmel.
James Shortt’s Sunday selections at Naas
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