Early Doors defied top weight to land the Martin Pipe at the Cheltenham Festival in March and probably wasn’t seen to best effect when making his chase debut at Galway back in August. He kept on well from the home turn, but conceded the first run and couldn’t get on terms with the winner. However, he should be up to winning an event such as this and can get the better of the promising Smoking Gun to get off the mark in this sphere.
Salsaretta was set some very stiff tasks towards the end of her novice campaign over hurdles, but made an impressive start to life over fences with a ready victory at Punchestown last month. She travelled strongly throughout and, with further improvement likely, has every chance to make it back-to-back victories here. Demi Plie took her form to a new level at Fairyhouse last month and represents the main danger if able to progress again.
Pasley had finished an encouraging second on his hurdling debut and was sent off long odds-on at Cork last time out, but only managed to finish runner-up. Given his strength in the betting, he must be held in some regard, and he can make amends here for Joseph O’Brien, who has his string in such good form.
Stratum is a smart performer on the Flat and over jumps and gained a significant victory in October when landing the Cesarewitch at Newmarket. He wasn’t at his best at Naas last time, but he can be forgiven as it came just 22 days after his Cesarewitch exploits, and he looks the one to beat on his return to hurdles. Sizing John, winner of the 2017 Cheltenham Gold Cup, is a fascinating contender on his return from two years off the track.
Burlesque Queen has been consistent of late, winning both her starts at Clonmel and twice finishing runner-up at this venue. Her second here last time, from a mark 11lb higher than the one she defied at Clonmel, was her best effort yet and she may well have won were it not for a late mistake. She is still very much one to be interested in and is taken to make it three wins from her last five starts.
Pretty Little Liar showed promise before departing at Uttoxeter in June and built on that encouraging effort three days later when landing a Stratford handicap to get off the mark over hurdles. She was disappointing at Bellewstown, but put in a respectable performance on the all-weather at Dundalk last month, and she should strip fitter for that run. She gets the nod in an open contest.
Immortality got off the mark in points at the second time of asking in November and was subsequently purchased for £80,000. She is a sister to two winners, including Laurina, and makes plenty of appeal on her Rules debut for Gordon Elliott. Purple Mountain makes her Rules debut for Willie Mullins and also makes obvious appeal for a top stable.
12:05 Early Doors
14:15 Burlesque Queen
14:50 Pretty Little Liar