We saw not just one, not just two, but three Cheltenham contenders yesterday at Sandown as Torpillo, Laurina and Elixir De Nutz all won their races (Laurina’s wasn’t a race really), laying down markers in different fashion. Fans are treated once again today as a high-quality pair of cards at Naas and Plumpton could give us lots more Cheltenham clues.
The feature race of the day is the Lawlor’s Of Naas Novice Hurdle (1.50), a race with a long and illustrious record that includes winners like Mikael D’Haugenet, Monksland, Bellshill, Death Duty and Next Destination.
This year’s renewal has seen the market focus on two of the nine runners – Battleoverdoyen and Tornado Flyer. Battleoverdoyen, a deeply impressive winner of a strong bumper at Punchestown back in November, sauntered all over his opposition when making his debut at Navan, and it’s obvious that a step up in grade has been coming.
Eye-popping stuff this – Battleoverdoyen 🚀
— At The Races (@AtTheRaces) December 16, 2018
Readers of this column have an ante post wager on Tornado Flyer for the Supreme Novices; Hurdle, but the style of his maiden hurdle win, when he had all moves covered around the turn and was then very strong after the turn in a comfortable success, suggests that he’s set to stay over this trip and there’s little surprise that he’s sent here.
— Sporting Life (@SportingLife) December 9, 2018
He ought to go well and you could do worse than to have him as your Ballymore contender but Gigginstown have another interesting contender in the shape of Commander Of Fleet. Gordon Elliott’s five year old was all the rage when he took apart his field in the Land Rover bumper at the Punchestown Festival.
Just as easy a winner when returned there to make his hurdling debut, he was then sent to the Royal Bond when expected to play a big part, but could not make an impact in a farcically run race when fourth, outsped the moment the race got serious.
Stepped back up in trip, he should be much more comfortable and nine runners ought to give him a solid pace to aim at here, whilst the form of the Royal Bond looks smarter after Aramond ran out an impressive winner of the Champions Novice at Leopardstown and it would be no surprise to see him post a much improved effort here. With that in mind, he might be well worth backing for the Ballymore as well.
Come To Me, who took his field apart at Cork, is an interesting contender here who need respect and Lone Reason will have his ground here which brings him into the equation. Getareason ought to be ridden fairly forward but appears exposed whilst Sams Profile could enjoy this better ground and a different trip, having finished third in the Kerry Group Stayers’ Novice Hurdle.
First Approach and Mangium are likely to find this difficult based on a number of their recent runs.
Campeador can be rather accident prone but he’s a classy animal who can take the Irish Stallion Farms EBF Novice Chase (1.20) if putting in a good round and managing to give weight to Articulum.
The opening I.N.H. Stallion Owners EBF Maiden Hurdle (1.50) is a really useful race where the market fancied Barrington Court to make it second time lucky. She wasn’t disgraced on her hurdling debut over C&D last time, finishing three lengths behind the high-class Relegate. There are two others to watch in the shape of the Gigginstown House Stud pair Valdieu and Final List, who both arrive on the back of comfortable bumper wins, while Queens Boulevard can do well if she learns how to settle.
The Eastcoast Seafood & Gouldings Hardware Handicap Chase (2.00) is another race that the market has between Gigginstown (Arvico) & JP McManus (Punches Cross), although Quamino is more than capable of spoling the party.
The Adare Manor Opportunity Handicap Hurdle (2.50) is succeeded by the Irish Stallion Farms EBF Mares Beginners Chase (3.20) where we see the return of Missy Tata, who was last season making it five straight wins in a row over hurdles – all the way back on Boxing Day of 2016.
The Rushe’s Supervalu (Pro/Am) INH Flat Race (3.50) could be anything so a watching brief is recommended.
Plumpton is always a place where you can count on some good Sunday fun, and it’s had its fair share of high class horses passing through. It’s fair to say that there wouldn’t have been as many in one race as there will be in the Follow At The Races On Twitter Novices’ Chase (1.10) and fans are in for a treat.
If Plumpton's anything to go by this upcoming Sunday, 2019's going to be a great year for NH! Finally, a top class 🇫🇷 based horse travels here and it's some horse in the dual G1 winner Master Dino! It'll be great to have Macaire over these shores with a top novice chase prospect. pic.twitter.com/5fizLUmS6Y
— Jay (@mufc_fan_saf) January 1, 2019
The headline attraction is Master Dino, France’s champion four-year-old hurdler last year who landed his second Grade 1 Hurdle when taking the Prix Renaud du Vivier at Auteuil in November before he made a winning chase debut at the same track later that month. That success came by no less than than 30 lenghts and if taking to English fences than a bid at the JLT looks to be in the offing.
But today he must face a first-class novice chase field. Knocknanuss has won his last two chases by a combined 38 lengths and is now rated 148. Glenloe was beaten a nose in the Pertemps Final of last season by a now dual Grade 1 winner in the shape of Delta Work. Both will have their backers although this weight could be too much for him with multiple penalties for his wins whilst this is surely too short for Glenloe on his seasonal debut but it could be just right for Slate House.
He ended up getting caught in the mud after a taking win last November when he outsped none other than Summerville Boy in the Supreme Trial (Bedrock was further behind) and whilst he’d run with credit since, this is probably the best ground he’ll have run on since an impressive win last October over hurdles and it would be no surprise if eh proved to be much better than his spring festival form. Getting weight from all but Oneoforthenations and Good Man Pat, both of whom he ought to have the measure of, he’s the most interesting betting contender here.
A good card is supplemented by a couple of novice hurdles. Watch Sky Sports Racing In HD Novices’ Hurdle (12.40) when the useful flat performer Brandon Castle attempts to make it two from two here after a battling win on debut under Bryony Frost. Zoffany Bay, rated 120 after four hurdling runs including a wide margin win here, is her marker and it’s 12’s bar.
Phoenix Way is a shade of odds on in the (Visit attheraces.com EBF “National Hunt” Novices’ Hurdle) after a staying on second in a strong event at Sandown. The winner I Can’t Explain was a decent second, albeit well beaten, in a Listed Novice’ Hurdle at Cheltenham on New Year’s Day, whilst Hold The Note and Greateeen have since won. Third Wind surprised here on his hurdling debut when surprising at odds of 40/1 but he found plenty and was travelling best from the home turn, along with some good jumping, and he eventually won easily. This is a stronger race but his presence is enough not to back the strong favorite.
There’s nothing of interest in the Download The At The Races App Handicap Hurdle (2.10) and the Sky Sports Racing Sussex National Handicap Chase (2.40) doesn’t have a horse of obvious appeal, with favourite The Two Amgios a deserved market leader but short at 2/1.
The Follow At The Races On Facebook Handicap Chase (3.10) and Watch Today’s Race Replays On attheraces.com Handicap Hurdle (3.40) were competitive races but not ones that had a huge amount of betting appeal.
2 pts each/way Commander Of Fleet, 1.50 Naas (8/1 Paddy Power) – NON RUNNER
1 pt each/way Slate House, 1.10 Plumpton (6/1 general)
Ante Post Advice
1 pt each/way Commander Of Fleet, Ballymore Hurdle (25/1 Betfair, Paddy Power)