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This opening beginners chase has produced plenty of subsequent high profile winners in the past and that could be the case again here, with RUSSIAN DIAMOND selected to get off the mark over fences.
Lightly raced for his age, the seven-year-old has some solid hurdle form to his name – particularly his third-placed effort behind Barrington Court last July. He was thrown in at the deep end when contesting a Grade 3 novice chase at the Galway festival, falling at the fifth fence when a well-backed favourite.
Hurdle form suggests that Raya Time might be the main threat to Emmet Mullins’ charge, but he has yet to win in six starts over fences. Meanwhile, the Willie Mullins-trained Fan De Blues is another who has been frustrating over the bigger obstacles. On the whole, this looks a good opportunity for Russian Diamond and it would be a surprise if he were not to book a ticket to the Galway festival with victory here. He gets the NAP vote on Monday’s card.
A competitive mares novice hurdle and, while Willie Mullins is doubly represented, it might be a case that the champion trainer has to settle for minor honours behind WHAT UA DOIN. Formerly trained by Val Ward, the daughter of Dylan Thomas made a winning start for her new trainer when making all in impressive fashion at Wexford 15 days ago.
While the competition on the day wasn’t anywhere near the calibre she’ll face today, she looked a different proposition to what we had seen previously and she was heavily eased down before winning by an official 15 lengths. The market is likely to be dominated by the Mullins pair of Manitopark AA and The West Awaits and while jockey bookings suggests that the former might be the best of the Closutton duo, the form of The West Awaits reads better.
However, both might have to give way to Matthew Smith’s mare and if she is given an easy lead, she might be very hard to peg back.
Having beaten Kilcruit in a bumper at Clonmel nearly 15 months ago, it’s hard to believe that Captain Kangaroo is still a maiden over timber after six attempts. On three occasions, he’s been turned over at odds-on and while plenty are likely to give him one more chance here, he might again be worth taking on with BALLYCAIRN.
Having finished third to Kilcruit in a Navan bumper late last year, he managed to win at the Leopardstown Christmas meeting albeit was a fortunate winner on the day. He was easy to back when disappointing on his final bumper outing at Fairyhouse, so that run can be forgiven, and it also came at a time when the stable was out of form.
Pipers Meadow has got good placed form to his name but might find it hard to win here, while Gloire D’athon has been disappointing in his three runs since coming from France. Overall, Ballycairn looks as though he could make into an above average hurdler and he gets the vote here.
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