The flat cap has been dislodged. It was hanging on a bit for the past few weeks but we’re in full National Hunt mode now. In fairness, the badger going on the beer is one of the great winter game pointers. The fact that the flat finale at Donny was washed out only heightens the sense of rapid change.
Irish race fans are treated to some high-quality fare. The Saturday card at Naas should showcase some top talent. The Navan card is arguably superior with one of the queens of the turf making her seasonal bow. I will concentrate my tipping energies on the Meath venue. The ground will be saturated.
For the third consecutive year, Apple’s Jade should get her season off to a winning start in the Lismullen Hurdle (1.05 pm). It’s conceivable that, off level weights, Bacardys could beat her. He would need to run something around a personal best though. That seems unlikely, and opposing Gordon Elliot’s mare should prove folly.
We won’t get rich backing her mind. A couple of handicap projects appeal. Bay Ambition makes just her fifth start, and handicap bow, in the first race (12.05 pm). Her two starts for the Gavin Cromwell yard have gone well. She was third behind a smart sort in Roscommon. Stepped up in trip she made no mistake at Downpatrick.
My reading of that form makes her opening mark of 110 look on the lenient side.
Also, she was probably value for more than the winning distance last time. A stumble and some minor interference didn’t help her cause. That was over a slightly longer trip but the attritional conditions tomorrow will bring her stamina into play. The ground shouldn’t be an issue either. With improvement almost inevitable, and an appealing mark, she looks the best bet on the card.
Joseph O’Brien saddles a trio of runners in the Austria Handicap Hurdle (2.45 pm). Jockey bookings suggest The Moyglass Flyer is the least fancied of the three. He rates the selection all the same. I’m disinclined to read too much into the riding arrangements. It could be that with the Flyer being the least experienced of them, JJ Slevin has been responsible for his schooling and keeps the ride for continuity.
This horse looks to have a big engine. He won his only start in Thurles last November. That day he overcame some poor jumping late on. A particularly bad mistake at the last looked terminal. He showed a lot of heart, and ability, to get back up near the line. That victory worked out well, and an opening mark of 118 seems generous.
He’s a well-bred sort. Encouragingly his two most talented siblings produced their best efforts on soft ground. We also know that he’s capable of winning off a break. He has a bit to prove but we should get rewarding odds as a result. I’ll be happy to go bounty hunting.
The beginners chase (3.15 pm) looks a very hot race for the grade. Melon, who displayed a startling disregard for his safety over hurdles, tackles the bigger obstacles for the first time. Jockey Paul Townend will be hopeful he shows them more respect. That’s possible but I’m inclined to oppose. He’s inconsistent, and it’s not Cheltenham in March tomorrow.
Off You Go, Milan Native, and Caravation could all go a long way up the novice ranks this season. For various reasons, they’re all opposable tomorrow though. That leaves Fakir D’oudairies. He has the benefit of experience over French fences. He also gets a chunky four-year-old allowance. He was one of the top juvenile hurdlers last season. He won on seasonal bow last term.
Granted, he improved markedly second time up. I still rate it a positive. This race is like Emmental. A quality product that’s somehow also full of holes. Fakir, like cheddar, looks the solid option.
Brendan Duke’s Navan Selections:
12.05 pm: Bay Ambition @ 6/1
2.45 pm: The Moyglass Flyer @ 11/2
3.15 pm: Fakir D’oudairies @ 9/4
*All prices correct at time of posting