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Ryan Moore heads to Ireland for the opening day of the turf season and rides DUKE OF MANTUA in the Paddy Power Madrid Handicap over 7-furlongs for Aidan O’Brien. How forward the Ballydoyle horses are is always questioned in the early part of the new flat season, but they’ve managed to win this race several times previously with Francis Of Assisi (2013) and with Never No More two years ago.
The son of No Nay Never was third to subsequent Dewhurst winner St Mark’s Basilica on debut at the Curragh last August, before winning easily at Gowran Park the following month. The handicapper is taking no chances with an opening mark of 104 with the second, third and fourth horses in Kilkenny all managing to enhance the form since with victories on the racetrack.
Following an excellent week for the Cullentra House team at Cheltenham, AMOR VERDADERO can win this handicap hurdle for Denise Foster and Jack Kennedy at Downpatrick on Sunday. The daughter of Jeremy will appreciate the drying ground and should secure compensation for defeat at Leopardstown, when Jordan Gainford was unseated when travelling well two from home.
Her third-placed finish to Klassy Kay at Punchestown in January reads well and she can give the Cullentra team yet another victory in this race.
The closing bumper at Chepstow looks an interesting match between two winners from the Paul Nicholls and Nicky Henderson stables. Gold Bullion looked a staying type when winning at Warwick in January for the Ditcheat team, while FIRESTEP was a little green when scoring at Southwell last November.
The Nicholls team has a 50% strike-rate in Chepstow bumpers in the past five seasons (12 winners from 24 runners), but it’s also interesting to note that the only bumper horse Henderson has sent to this track within the same timeframe was a winner. Firestep should appreciate the drying ground better than Gold Bullion, while his Southwell victory looks slightly better with Neon Moon enhancing the form with victory for David Pipe at Wincanton.
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