After a Christmas period that delivered some memorable competition, we could be forgiven for expecting something of a lull this weekend. Not a bit of it. This NH season continues to deliver the goods. One of the most exciting horses in training appears in Naas on Sunday. He’s opposed by some worthy opposition too.
Envoi Allen bids for his third win at Grade 1 level in the Lawlor’s Novice Hurdle (2.20 pm). He should take care of business too. That’s what he does after all. On seven occasions he has had business to attend to. All seven deals went off without a hitch.
The most interesting thing is that one feels his empire is about to undergo massive expansion. Sunday’s challengers will keep him honest. It’s a measure of how deep the race is that the highly promising French Dynamite is the complete outsider. As for a bet. I was a bit surprised that Elixir D’ainay wasn’t clear second favourite. He beat Longhouse Poet on merit at this track in November. I will take him to confirm the form, and a bet without the favourite is recommended.
The novice chase (1.20 pm) is a very interesting affair. Four of the six runners would have had roughly similar ability over hurdles. Zero Ten was probably the best of them but he will need a marked improvement on the technique shown when winning on chasing debut to prevail here.
Tornado Flyer is respected. Conceding four pounds all round won’t be easy though. Indeed it would have come as little surprise had Paul Townend chosen Cash Back.
Dunvegan will carry my money. This highly regarded sort failed to go on from a taking debut last season. Hopefully, that will not happen this time around. His winning chase debut was ideal. A little careful at the first couple of obstacles, his jumping became more accomplished as the race went on. He seemed to be relishing the task. I expect another tidy round on Sunday. Even over a trip that may be sub-optimal, that might prove good enough. He rates the best bet on the card.
Lusis Naturea looks worthy of a small play in the handicap hurdle (3.20 pm). This horse showed renewed vigour for current connections during the most recent flat campaign. He improved by a stone according to the handicapper.
He’s now rated 76 on the level. That suggests he should be well handicapped off 95 on Sunday. Video research of previous efforts over hurdles indicates he has a perfectly adequate hurdling technique. The recent mild spell of weather will result in ground verging on good. That’s a help too. 15 runners isn’t ideal but Paddy’s throwing us an extra place bone so more than happy to take that.
Finally to Plumpton for the Sussex National (2.40 pm). Christmas In April (CIA) is hard to get away from. This horse first caught my eye with a Lazarus like effort when just failing to get up in Perth last April. That run screamed of a horse needing to step up in trip.
Sure enough, he next ran over six furlongs further in October. That day he had the misfortune to run into a horse with 20 pounds in hand. CIA made no mistake at this track last month. That day he jumped efficiently in the main. It got a touch ragged up the home straight. He may not have been fully focused. He wears cheekpieces with good reason.
The third that day has won since. A three-pound rise in the weights for CIA looks lenient. This lightly raced sort should improve for a further step up in trip here. The mercurial Harry Cobden retains the ride. What’s not to like?
1.20pm: Naas – Dunvegan @ 3/1
2.20pm: Naas – Elixir D’ainay (without the favourite) @ 5/4
2.40pm: Plumpton – Christmas In April @ 4/1
3.20pm: Naas – Lusis Naturea @ 11/2
*All prices correct at time of posting