1.00 Connolly’s Red Mills Irish EBF Auction Maiden Hurdle 1m 7f 101yds
John Cannon has been off the track for 239 days but he might still be able to make his previous experience over hurdles count. The seven-year-old won a bumper at this track a couple of years ago and he has some useful hurdling form to his name such as when he finished third to Hook Up at Fairyhouse well over a year ago and when second to Banbridge at Punchestown in May. Those runs would suggest that a maiden hurdle is within his reach and his previous experience over jumps earns him the vote over Pinkerton who looked a nice prospect when making a successful racecourse debut at Down Royal last month.
SELECTION: JOHN CANNON
Next best: Pinkerton
1.30 BetVictor W.T. O’Grady Memorial Irish EBF Novice Hurdle 2m 7f
An interesting test for Gerri Colombe on his second start over hurdles and Gordon Elliott’s charge is marginally preferred to the experienced and very useful Churchstonewarrior.
The selection looked a major talent last season when winning both his starts in bumpers and he was an assured winner over two and a half miles on his jumping debut at Down Royal last month when he accounted for the subsequent winner Ailie Rose.
He has realistic pretensions of holding his own at a much higher level and can make the most of the 5lbs he is receiving from Churchstonewarrior who is a dual course winner and is looking to build on a fine fourth to Ginto in a Grade 1 at Naas three weeks ago. He sets a good standard with a rating of 134 and can confirm form with Idas Boy whom he has defeated on his last two outings.
SELECTION: GERRI COLOMBE
Next best: Churchstonewarrior
2.05 Horse & Jockey Handicap Hurdle 1m 7f 101yds
Light Brigade is a tentative choice. He is 14lbs higher than when last successful and he finished down the field on his last start but that came in a Grade A handicap at Fairyhouse where he was 11th to Gua Du Large.
Only three horses that finished in front of him that day have run since and two (the eighth- and ninth-placed finishers) have won since which is encouraging. In addition the selection shaped better than the bare result would suggest when beaten just over 23 lengths into fourth by Eskylane in a decent handicap hurdle at Down Royal in late October.
The Greek is a pretty reliable type and got off the mark when he accounted for a big field in a two-mile novice handicap hurdle at Leopardstown last month. A 7lbs rise in the ratings shouldn’t prevent him from getting involved. Aarons Day is certainly good enough to play a part in a race like this and could be dangerous as he looks to build on a respectable comeback over two and a half miles at Punchestown last month.
SELECTION: LIGHT BRIGADE
Next best: The Greek
2.40 Coolmore N.H. Sires Mogul Irish EBF Mares Novice Chase (Grade 2) 2m 4f 63yds
A competitive edition of this race and a good case could be made for a number of the runners, but preference is for Jeremys Flame. She endured a rather mixed time of things when trying fences last season but has looked much better this term and easily defeated a couple of useful rivals over two miles and three furlongs at Naas earlier this month having previously run a fine second to Concertista in a Grade 2 at Cork in early December.
Minella Melody lacks previous experience over fences but represents a formidable opponent as she was a Grade 1-placed 142-rated hurdler who posted a couple of fine efforts behind Concertista last season. She could make a very smart chaser. Dual course winner Ballyshannon Rose is respected and was running well in a Grade 2 last time only to fall at the last, while Darrens Hope is also respected following her solid effort behind Concertista at Limerick.
SELECTION: JEREMYS FLAME
Next best: Minella Melody
3.15 Horse & Jockey Hotel Chase (Grade 2) 2m 4f 63yds
Allaho is impossible to oppose. He won this race last year en route to his brilliant victory in the Ryanair at Cheltenham and he comes here off a battling comeback success in last month’s John Durkan Chase at Punchestown. On that occasion he had eight lengths to spare over Fakir D’Oudairies whom he defeated by a dozen lengths when they met in the Ryanair and, at level weights, there is no reason why Allaho shouldn’t be able to once again confirm his superiority.
Notebook and Battleoverdoyen have their work cut out if they are to get closely involved although both are capable of highclass form on their day.
Next best: Fakir D’Oudairies
3.45 BetVictor Handicap Chase 2m 5f 144yds
A chance is taken on Donkey Years. He isn’t the easiest to predict but is a capable type at his best as evidenced by his previous wins at Cork and Navan. He was a very cosy winner of a handicap chase at Navan last March but didn’t quite go on from that in the manner one might have expected. However, he wasn’t disgraced in a very competitive three-mile-one-furlong handicap chase at the Punchestown Festival and a recent comeback over hurdles at Limerick wasn’t devoid of promise.
The one to beat here looks to be Fakir D’Alene who bolted up in first-time blinkers when winning a Down Royal rated beginners’ chase by some 32 lengths last month and the form of that race has already been franked with the runner-up, Now Where Or When, winning at Fairyhouse last weekend.
SELECTION: DONKEY YEARS
Next best: Fakir D’Alene
4.15 Thurles Racecourse Hunters Chase 3m 136yds
Billaway is the one to beat but it is worth noting that he is often at his most vulnerable first time out. However, he has run to a sufficiently strong standard on his seasonal debut for the last two seasons that he is not one to oppose. Furthermore, he will take a lot of beating if performing to the level that saw him fill the runner-up spot in top hunter chases at Cheltenham and Punchestown last spring.
Over the course of last season Billaway notched up victories in decent hunters chase events at Down Royal and Naas and on both occasions his vanquished opponents included Winged Leader who lines up looking for a fifth win on the spin having returned with a dead-heat success at Loughbrickland a couple of months ago in a race where the subsequent Down Royal hunter chase winner Dorking Cock was beaten some 38 lengths into third.
Next best: Winged Leader