With Sky Sports’ Sunday offering featuring ties between St Mirren/Hibernian and Livingston/Rangers, the day’s racing action at Naas takes the sporting limelight rather by default.
The Grade 3 Limestone Lad Hurdle (13:50) is named after the prolific staying hurdler who was at his pomp at the turn of the century, and it could be worth siding with a golden oldie in this year’s renewal.
Wicklow Brave is firmly in the veteran stages now, but he enjoyed a productive summer on the Flat last year, winning four times, though his busy schedule perhaps took its toll in the autumn, when he went off the boil over timber. Such a run of form has earned him the dreaded Timeform squiggle (which suggests a horse is unreliable), but he’s shown some smart form over hurdles in the last 12 months, and a repeat of his effort to finish second in the Punchestown Champion Hurdle last April would give him leading claims.
The lightly-raced Espoir d’Allen is likely to be a short price after winning back-to-back Grade 3 contests at Naas and Limerick at the end of last year, but, strictly on Timeform ratings, he has something to find with an on-song Wicklow Brave.
Thirty-five minutes later, there’s a cracking renewal of the Grade 3 Naas Racecourse Business Club Novice Chase (14:20), in which several have strong claims. The one who tops the Timeform ratings is Chris’s Dream, who made a very promising debut when winning at Navan last month, and it’s highly likely that there’s more to come.
There’s more crossovers in this race than the Marvel franchise, too, as Chris’s Dream had Shady Operator behind him in second that day, and Shady Operator has subsequently defeated Ballyward. Cheltenham Festival winner Blow By Blow is respected, but preference is for Henry de Bromhead’s charge.
The maiden hurdle at 15:20 could prove to be highly informative – it was won by Ballyward last year, who went on to be placed in Grade 1s at both Cheltenham and Punchestown. Following the news that Ryanair and Gigginstown mogul Michael O’Leary has dropped out of the billionaires’ club this week, he could be keen to mop up every cent of the €16,000 prize on offer with Dream Conti.
A bumper winner at Fairyhouse last April, Dream Conti has shaped well in two starts over hurdles so far, and the form of his effort to finish third on hurdling debut at Punchestown last month has worked out well. He could only run to a similar level at Leopardstown 20 days later, but he’s a good prospect, and is a strong fancy to take this with more to come.
The penultimate race on the card, the novice handicap chase (15:50), is likely to be far more competitive, and Noel Meade’s representative Getaway Kid looks a good bet.
He’s made an encouraging start to his chasing career, getting off the mark at the third time of asking when showing much improved form to win at Downpatrick, and he was unlucky not to double up at Fairyhouse last time, when falling at the final fence.
He hit a low of 1.36 on the exchanges before departing when a length to the good that day, and he’s fancied to gain quick compensation of an opening mark of 127, which looks more than fair.
*All prices correct at time of posting on Saturday evening