3.40 Tattersalls Ireland Novice Hurdle (Grade 1) 2m
Dark Raven: Looked smart in two bumpers two seasons ago (won George Mernagh impressively at Fairyhouse) but missed all of last season after a setback. Won his maiden hurdle over this course and distance, picking up nicely to deal with Doctor Bravo (won since) with the pair of them clear. This is a marked step up in class but he is promising and may be able to hold his own.
Facile Vega: Four out of four in bumpers, two at this course and then at Grade 1 level at Cheltenham and Punchestown, which earned him rave reviews from his trainer going into this campaign. Dealt with straightforward assignment on hurdles debut fine before posting four-length win in Grade 1 over this course and distance at Christmas.
That might have been slightly underwhelming in what was a strangely run race, but he never looked like getting beaten and it seems more likely than not he will improve further now.
High Definition: Most intriguing recruit to hurdles with official rating of 117 on the flat last year and got off the mark at the first time of asking over this course and distance at Christmas. Drifted in the betting beforehand, and jumped greenly throughout but still won comprehensively and is very likely to improve now, which is necessary if he is to be competitive here.
Il Etait Temps: Ran reasonably well at Grade 1 level as juvenile hurdler last season and with no win to his name, he has novice status for this campaign. Straightforward win first time up before running four-length second to Facile Vega here at Christmas. Might have been suited by getting a soft lead there and this should be a stronger test.
Inthepocket: Posted sharp time on hurdles debut at Wexford before building on that Grade 2 win over two and a half miles at Naas, where his speed was evident late on to get a march on Three Card Brag. Form of both his wins has worked out reasonably well and it’s interesting he comes back to two miles now. Definite player.
Irish Point: French recruit scored first time up at Cork before excellent run when just touched off by Marine Nationale in Royal Bond and then Champ Kiely when upped in trip for Lawlor’s Of Naas.
That is two big runs in Grade 1s, for which the form looks strong. Back to two miles will suit him as well.
No Looking Back: Interesting contender after claiming scalp of Brazil in Limerick Grade 2 over Christmas. That was just a two-runner affair so the form is questionable, but he conceded the lead to the runner-up before beating him fair and square late on and the performance was a big step forward from his Thurles maiden hurdle win. This will be just his third start over hurdles so scope to improve further and he looks well worth a go in this company.
Facile Vega could blow these away but at 1/2 he looks short enough when you consider this looks a much better contest to the race he won over Christmas. High Definition is intriguing but lacks hurdles experience so Irish Point could be the one. He has put up two really big performances in Grade 1s and he can go close again.