A strange St.Patrick’s day for us all but at least we’ve got a couple of Irish national hunt cards to celebrate as Down Royal & Wexford go ahead behind closed doors. Bar One Racing broadcaster Kieran Burke previews the Down Royal offering off the back of 3 winning selections at Limerick on Sunday.
1.50 2m½f (2m140y) Bluegrass Maiden Hurdle (4yo+)
A very decent looking maiden to kickstart the card with Now Where Or When third behind a Mullins & Elliott trained duo at Navan with the front two both going on to win their next races.
Bal Del Rio is a recent flat convert who was only beaten a short head on jumping debut at Clonmel last time while Deealli was second to Saint D’oroux at Gowran and is progressing nicely for Thomas Coyle.
Simon Crawford is without a win from his last 8 runners but with Now Where Or When in receipt of plenty of weight from Bal Del Rio I side with the Antrim trainer to snap his losing streak here.
2.25 2m3½f (2m3f105y) Adare Manor Opportunity Handicap Hurdle (4yo+ 80-95)
A field of 17 line up for this handicap but two runners catch the eye on recent form in Stoughan Cross and Plentiful. The former is the only recent winner in the field while Plentiful showed vast improvement to make the frame at Clonmel last time and is only a couple of pound higher now.
Oakley Brown had a 7lb claim aboard Stoughan at Punchestown but is replaced by a non-claimer in Liam McKenna which makes doubling up all the tougher off 5lb higher in the ratings while the form of that Punchestown race looks very weak.
Plentiful got within 2 lengths of a winner rated much higher than anything in this field and looks to have a good opportunity at going one place better here.
3.00 2m3½f (2m3f105y) Cleary Contracting Ltd Novice Handicap Hurdle (4yo+)
After competing in some tough maidens won by the likes of Tronador and Saint D’Ouroux Metal Man finally got off the mark for Gordon Elliott at Navan last time and should progress again here.
Bachelor hasn’t raced since the summer and went close at Kilbeggan previously but may need better ground while Groody Rover may be the main threat having beaten Faramix to a maiden at Clonmel latest and unlike Metal Man the gelding has been tested at further than 2m in the past.
Lily’s Gem is another promising contender for Antrim’s Simon Crawford but the mare who won at Carlise latest goes up against the opposite sex here and while she can’t be ruled out I’m siding with Groody Rover narrowly over Metal Man.
3.35 2m3½f (2m3f140y) North Down Marquees Rated Novice Chase (5yo+)
Golazo looks something of a banker here with Willie Mullins bumper winner blitzing the field by 17 lengths on chase debut at Tramore last time. Third in a maiden behind Abacadabras prior to that this is clearly a gelding with potential over fences and should double up here in a rather average looking race.
4.10 3m2f (3m2f50y) Racing TV Chase (5yo+)
Five runners go to post in this one and a few of them have had their problems including the favorite Jury Duty who unseated Robbie Power in the Grand National before being pulled up in the Irish edition. Bang out of form since Gordon Elliott’s charge is still well clear in terms of ratings to its rivals and this looks the easiest opening on paper in quite some time.
Moonshine Boy has some encouraging recent enough form in the book but would probably like quicker ground while Elliott’s apparent second string Monbeg Notorious endured a difficult 2019 of its own.
Finally, Fine Rightly and Ned Shark were both pulled up on latest outings which leaves me siding with the 154 rated Jury Duty but I wouldn’t be doubling down on this favorite that’s for sure.
4.45 2m3½f (2m3f140y) Hamilton Architects Hunters Chase (5yo+)
This looks a bit of a match race for me and it’s difficult to split old rivals Winged Leader and Samuri Cracker with the latter finishing over 4 lengths clear of the former in a maiden hunters chase at Limerick’s Christmas festival.
Since then however, it’s been Winged Leader who’s impressed with consecutive point wins while Samurai Cracker has fallen and been a runner up at Naas and Thurles.
Winged Leader is a remarkably consistent sort with recent form figures of 22211 and as a result my vote goes the way of the David Christie trained gelding to reverse the form with the locally trained Samurai Cracker (Caroline McCaldin).
5.20 2m½f (2m140y) Johnston Houston Mares Flat Race (4-7yo)
You can never be sure with bumpers (as we saw with the so called banker Appreciate It on Wednesday) and there’s a few newcomers and potential improvers in this field of 12 that leave me vulnerable to getting egg on my face but in Delvino Dermot McLoughlin looks to hold a very strong chance here.
Runner-up by the Margaret Mullins trained Julie’s Stoaway on debut, that rival went on to run in the Champion Bumper last week.
The threat may come from a more usual suspect in Gordon Elliott’s Beth Horan who ran behind a recent Grade 2 bumper runner at Punchestown last time and this Gigginstown mare is vastly more experienced than any of her rivals in the field with this race representing a fifth start under rules (plus 1 point start).
Elliott also saddles up a potential improver in Imperial Allure but Delvino looks the one to beat in the finale on St.Patrick’s Day.
Have a happy St.Patrick’s Day everyone and please stay safe by following the government guidelines during this testing time for our proud nation who once again retained the Prestbury Cup at Cheltenham this past week with a brilliant tally of 16 winners during the festival.