The big freeze has hit the UK and Ireland with more meetings off than on across the water this weekend but hopes are high that we will be racing at Naas this Saturday, writes Martin Pennington.
The opening race is an interesting Maiden Hurdle with a number of top yards represented. One of the lesser lights is Mad Brian from the Gillian Callaghan yard and he comes into this fresh from filling the runner-up spot behind the highly promising Eight Chimes at Fairyhouse on New Years Day. He showed that he handles these conditions well and having previously run the now 136 rated Formiddableopponent to 2 ½ lengths with subsequent winners in behind in a bumper at Navan back in November 2011 on his rules debut he can go close on this hurdling debut if fully recovered from his Fairyhouse exertions.
So Young has to concede weight to all bar Whatuthink in this 2 1/2m Grade 3 hurdle but he looks capable of doing just that and though he’s been beaten in both starts over hurdles so far this season there’s reasons to believe he can bounce back to form here. He probably went off too fast on his seasonal return in the Grade 1 Hatton’s Grace Hurdle at Fairyhouse in December which was won by stablemate Zaidpour whilst he posted a solid enough effort when upped to 3m for a Grade 2 over Christmas, having won three times last season (all when odds-on) from 2m to 2m 6f he’s clearly a fairly versatile horse and he can register a belated first graded success in this.
Jim Culloty has made no secret of the regard in which he holds his Lord Windermere (see feature from 11th January) and he can make the next step in his chasing career a winning one when upped to 3m for the first in this Grade 2 novice Chase. Having been beaten by the useful pair of Dylan Ross and Mikael D’Haguenet on his first two starts over fences Lord Windermere made no mistake at the third attempt when beating Grade 1 novice hurdle winner Marasonnien and he looked as if he’d appreciate the step up in trip and can do so at the expense of likely favourite Aupcharlie.
Art Of Logistics represents the in form team of Dessie Hughes and Bryan Cooper in this and the son of Exit To Nowhere who’s won two of his three starts to date can take advantage of any chinks in favourite Un Atout’s armour. The selection had a number of subsequent winners behind him when finishing fourth to UK raider Grand Jesture in a bumper at the Punchestown Festival back in April and he again showed he revelled in testing conditions when returning to the track with an easy four length defeat of a few subsequent winners in a Roscommon bumper at the start of October. Art Of Logistics has been off the track since scoring on hurdling debut up at Down Royal in November but he should improve for that hurdling debut and a return to heavy ground (was yielding to soft at Down Royal) could see him continue up the hurdling ladder.
Vic Canvas has been off the track since the Punchestown Festival of 2011 but he’d shown some smart form in the 2010/11 season, most notably when chasing home the very smart Last Instalment in a 2 1/2m Maiden Hurdle on heavy in February of that year. He’s already a course winner having taken a bumper from the useful hurdler Alderwood over 2m 3f here the previous November so he clearly handles the track. Following on from that Last Instalment run Vics Canvas justified odds-on favouritism in a 2m 5f soft ground Limerick Maiden a month later when he What A Laugh (subsequently a useful Hunter Chaser in the UK) and whilst his two subsequent handicap efforts proved disappointing (both over 3 miles on yielding and good at Cork and Punchestown respectively) they were arguably better races than today’s and he’s been dropped 6lbs since his last run, that and the drop in trip on testing ground look sure to suit and he should go well if fully wound up.
Pat Martin’s Lucky Spring makes his handicap debut in this off a mark 26lbs lower than his hurdles mark. He’s shown promise in his two completed chase starts so far behind Canaly and Pineau De Re when his jumping has let him down at times but having beaten Montan off a mark of 122 on his most recent hurdles start at Down Royal in November 2011 there’s reason to believe he can score off this lowly mark. The addition of the tongue tie looks likely to aid his chances and whilst he’s also disappointed on the flat since that success he’s run well at this track before and can go close again here.
Harry Kelly is having a terrific season, particularly with his bumper horses and his Nearly Nama’d can record a deserved first success under rules at the second time of asking here. The selection started his career in points finishing runner-up to the potentially top class Indian Castle at Ballindenisk last month, following that he made his rules debut in a bumper won by the highly regarded Henry De Bromhead mare Byerley Babe when bidding to make all before the winner quickened away from him and he can make amends in the finale.