The Bar One Racing Leinster National takes centre stage on Sunday at Naas, where 14 horses have been declared for the feature race. With a prize fund of €100,000 it has attracted a mixture of experienced and unexposed types.
Henry De Bromhead’s Gabbys Cross is set to carry top-weight of 11-12 under Rachael Blackmore. A course winner back in February 2022, Gabbys Cross has since landed the Galway Blazers last summer and races here off a mark 6lb higher than the rating from which he last won.
It’s a massive week for Barry Connell and Michael O’Sullivan as they head to Cheltenham with high hopes for their two novice hurdles Marine Nationale and Good Land. Espanito Bello has shown a real love for Naas having won at the track on three occasions. He was well-fancied for the Thyestes at Gowran earlier in the year, and wasn’t disgraced in finishing fifth. A bold bid is expected from Espanito Bello as he chases that fourth Naas win.
The Tack Room is set to race from 4lb out of the handicap but he remains a horse open to further improvement. The form of his Fairyhouse win last time has been franked with the runner-up Sweet Will going on to win at Doncaster. He’s lightly raced for a nine-year-old and off bottom-weight he’s likely to play a leading role.
Trainer Noel Meade has opted to rely on Farceur De Large having had three entered at the five-day stage. He won a Punchestown handicap chase back in November and was noted doing good late work to finish eighth in a valuable handicap chase at Leopardstown. His jumping left him down at the Dublin Racing Festival but in a less competitive race he should be a contender based on his penultimate start.
West Cork Wildway ran very well in that same race contested by Farceur De Large at the Dublin Racing Festival. It was his first run over fences since May, and in a less competitive race he will be on many shortlists. Now Where Or When was a place behind West Cork Wildway at Leopardstown, but he’s since contested the Bobbyjo Chase at Fairyhouse and received an 8lb rise for finishing third behind Kemboy.
The supporting card is headed by the Grade 3 Kingsfurze Novice Hurdle and Grade 3 Director Plate, both sponsored by Bar One Racing. Irish Point did hold entries at Cheltenham but connections have opted for what should be a much easier assignment. His form ties in with the best of Ireland’s novice hurdlers, among his efforts, that fine second in the Grade 1 Lawlor’s Of Naas Novice Hurdle earlier in the year.
Another Robcour owned horse Journey With Me would not look out of place at Cheltenham in one of the staying novice chases but connections have opted for easier pickings. He should be too classy for his rivals, although recent course winner Limerick Lace, in receipt of the mares allowance might not make things that easy.
Elsewhere on the card, Hands Of Gold is an a sharp upward curve and can complete a hat-trick of wins in the Bar One Racing Mobile Betting At Cheltenham Handicap Hurdle. The form of his last two wins have been let down by the runner-up Purse Price who’s been beaten twice since, but he looks a horse with more improvement left to come.
Four previous winners line up in the concluding mares bumper. Fancy Girl was well beaten in the Grade 2 mares bumper at the Dublin Racing Festival, but down in class should be hard to beat in the finale.