Not many people would have thought that Naas would be the centre of attention on Saturday – but the equine flu precautions in the UK mean it’s front and centre this weekend.
We haven’t many runners as we’d a busy Dublin Racing Festival, and the ground is still on the quick side for some of our earlier entries.
The BHA were right to react as quickly as they did and hopefully this containment action will see racing resume in the UK as soon as possible.
Let’s hope for a clear run to Cheltenham from there.
Martin Brassil’s City Island won really well at Leopardstown over Christmas where he finished in front of Dallas Des Pictons, who has won twice since.
He also beat our Getareason at Galway, before being disqualified, and that one has run to a fairly high level also.
I can’t see anything in this field to beat City Island, who should prove his well-being before a trip to Cheltenham next month.
The maiden hurdles has been split into two divisions and it’s hard to know which is the stronger contest. They look pretty even to me at this stage.
Paul rides Pont Aven in the first division, but he’ll have to be better this his fourth place finish to Dunvegan to score here. He’s a slow-maturing horse, who should improve with time.
Patrick Mullins rides likely favourite Debuchet for Margaret Mullins, while Drop the Anchor is ridden by Mark Walsh.
Both achieved more in bumpers than Pont Aven did, so he’d have to improve a lot to even get by these two, never mind the rest of the field.
The second division has a couple of interesting runners. Advantage Point of Eddie Harty’s looked decent when winning a bumper and has some respectable hurdle form.
All for Joy has been very consistent for trainer Oliver McKiernan and these two look the principals in this race. Of the others, Noel Meade’s Fauguernon finished fifth on debut last month and could be open to some improvement.
Paul Townend teams up with Paravalaguna and she should be hard to beat for Willie Mullins’ yard. She’s only a novice, but won very well at Limerick.
I ride Baie Des Iles for my brother-in-law Ross O’Sullivan. She has plenty of experience over fences, but the 2m trip could be on the sharp side for her. Mrs Lovett of Gordon Elliott’s is a nice mare in her own right, but Pravalaguna will be hard to beat.
The 2m novice hurdle is a decent contest. Maze Runner beat Band of Outlaws in a maiden hurdle, before Joseph O’Brien’s runner went to Limerick and won over Christmas.
Gordon Elliott has a couple of runners in Coko Beach and Elysian Plains, while Henry De Bromhead’s Havingagoodtime won a decent race at Fairyhouse.
However, Joseph O’Brien’s Konitho could be the hardest to beat. He was impressive when winning his maiden hurdle at Naas last time and was subsequently bought by J P McManus.
There’s nothing that stands out in his handicap but Scoir Mear could be a player if he returns to his best, but has been disappointing recently. The top weight Velocity Boy always runs a good race, but is not getting any younger at 10 years old.
If I was looking for an improver in the pack it could be Gigginstown Stud’s Roaring Bull from the Gordon Elliott yard.
He’s only a novice and could be ahead of the handicapper.
The opportunity handicap hurdle is ultra-competitive and I’d watch the market for any clues, because I’m afraid I don’t have any to give you.
We’ve no runner in the bumper but Front View was second to our impressive winner Blue Sari at Gowran Park and we’ll be watching to see if he can frank that form.
Patrick Mullins rides My Uncas for Henry de Bromhead, but as coincidence would have it, Barnes Des Mottes is owned by the same owners as Blue Sari (before he was bought by JP McManus). They think he’s talented, he’s making his racecourse debut and Finian Maguire rides. He could be worth following.