MILLSWYN (11/4) failed to fire when fancied for his Leopardstown hurdle debut over Christmas but it came in a race his trainer has run some of his best juveniles in and it would be no surprise to see this useful Flat performer prove a different proposition this time. Battle of Wills is interesting now hurdling for new trainer Gordon Elliott, while Thurles second Pepper’n’Salt also makes the shortlist.
STORMY IRELAND (1/2) has more on her plate now stepping out of mares’ company but she arrives at the top of her game and is taken to complete a hat-trick. She was well treated by the conditions of the race in a Grade 3 last time, but still showed improved form to win, and looks the obvious play, perhaps at the main expense of Off You Go who reverts to hurdles after an unproductive spell over fences.
A hot renewal of this Grade 3 and CAREFULLY SELECTED (4/7) can make it a perfect three from three over fences with the step up to 3m sure to suit. He is seemingly being aimed at the four-miler at Cheltenham, and to qualify for that race he will need to finish in the first four of this race, so a bold show is expected despite a 6 lb penalty. Ronald Pump is as likeable as they come and looks sure to go well again back in this sphere.
THE BIG GETAWAY (1/2) is likely to be a very warm order to shed his maiden tag at the second time of asking, a final flight blunder enough to cost him sufficient momentum at Leopardstown late last month on his hurdling debut. He remains with plenty of potential in this sphere and is fully expected to make amends here. Foxy Jacks and January Jets are fancied to give the selection most to think about, in a race that lacks depth despite the numbers.
MISTER EDDMAN (7/2) is still relatively low mileage and showed a good turn of foot to open his account in handicaps at Punchestown 26 days ago. Further progress isn’t out of the question and he could be worth chancing to follow up from a 5 lb higher mark. Morning Skye, Saint D’oroux and Dawson’s Gate head up the dangers.
THE GUNNER MURPHY (11/2) hasn’t shown all he’s capable of over fences and, with an opening mark of 122 looking potentially lenient based on his hurdling exploits, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him make a winning start in handicaps. Caravation won a novice with ease last time and is open to improvement along with recent Leopardstown scorer Best Behaviour.
It wasn’t too long ago that EDWULF (9/4) won the Irish Gold Cup at Leopardstown and he is really hard to oppose on the pick of his form. He didn’t get the best of runs on his first start in this discipline over the Christmas period and remains likely to be one of the leading players in this division this season.
*All odds correct at time of publication