* All prices are bang up to date with our snazzy widgets, while odds in copy are accurate at time of publishing but subject to change.
What a cracking start to the card at the Co Kildare track, which almost looks like a rehearsal for the National Hunt Chase at the Cheltenham Festival.
I was hugely taken by Vanillier at Punchestown, but he then ran flat in the Neville Hotels at Leopardstown over Christmas. That couldn’t have been his real form, but the fact he has to give 8lbs away to some seriously good rivals means I have to row in with the each-way play of Stratum.
He won’t be the best long term chaser in the field, but unlike several of his rivals here, including Stattler and Run Wild Fred, the Willie Mullins’ charge will relish the drying ground and his flat speed could well settle the issue here as long as he puts in a clear round of fencing.
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This is the kind of medium I love having an each-way play in at a huge price and with many of the big yards represented here we should get the odds we desire with the eight-year-old selection.
Four low key runs over hurdles were only going to be a warm-up for the real job in hand, namely chasing, and the eight-year-old showed on his last timber start over three miles that he has the raw ability to win a race of this nature over fences. Two runs in novice chase events since when down the field have set him up on a very enticing handicap mark of just 113 and he should be ready for a peak run here with at least six pressers/front runners set to line up here to give him a lovely tow into this big field contest.
This looks a fair handicap hurdle for the class three level at the track and I am sure that all eyes will be on the Jonjo O’Neill trained Anyharminasking who finally got his act together when hacking at at Catterick last time out.
It was the first time in his career that the five-year-old had a serious pace to chase and once he hit the front, the youngster was allowed to come home in his own time. However, a 13lbs hike in the weights asks a fair bit more of him and he may be too close in the ratings to the tried and tested selection. The eight-year-old dual purpose charge is back down to his last winning mark over timber and will relish the good ground here and this slightly easier grade.
Compared to the action at Naas, this 0-105, class five handicap hurdle looks a moderate affair, but at the top of the weights I am really keen on the Richard Newland runner.
Only a five-year-old, he has been brought along steadily by the Worcestershire handler and has been crying out for a step up to this kind of trip. His career best run came in a maiden hurdle last time out at Sedgefield over the minimum trip when he stayed on nicely behind Twoshotsoftequila over a sharp two miles without coming under maximum pressure. As the cliché goes, I expect that kindness to be repaid here over this extra yardage before the selection is stepped up in class.
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*All prices are bang up to date with our snazzy widgets, while odds in copy are accurate at time of publishing but subject to change
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