DISCLAIMER: ODDS AND ARTICLE UPDATED 09/03/2019, 15:50.
With three meetings due to take place on the final Sunday before Cheltenham, we have three selections for readers.
The feature race on Naas’ card, the Leinster National, can go the way of the Joseph O’Brien-trained Wishmoor. The selection ran below-par on his first three completed starts this season, but showed a marked improvement in form when finishing runner-up to one of today’s rivals, Dounikos, in the valuable Grand National trial over an extended 3m4f at Punchestown (good-to-yielding) a month ago.
Front-running appeared to suit on that occasion and while he has to defy a 3lb rise in the weights, he appears to have resumed the progression that saw him win two of his three handicap starts for previous trainer Mouse Morris last season. Rachael Blackmore, now established in the top tier of jockeys, takes over in the saddle and she can improve on her near 23% strike-rate (8/35) when teaming up with trainer O’Brien, while the latter himself can boast an impressive 35.71% strike-rate (5/14) with his chasers at this venue.
Torrid was a capable Flat performer on his day, winning twice, including on good-to-firm ground over 1m at Redcar in April 2017. The selection disappointed somewhat last Flat campaign, but the switch to hurdles appears to have suited, as the gelding has placed on all three starts over jumps, including when 15L second in a 2m1f maiden hurdle at Sedgefield (good-to-soft) in January.
The winner that day, Ingleby Hollow, has gone in again since and, with a sizeable gap back to the third, the form looks decent. Prior to that, the son of Three Valleys had finished a close second over the same course and distance, with the fourth, Fisher Green, boosting the form with a couple of hurdles victories here subsequently. Given a short break since his latest Sedgefield effort, he represents a shrewd stable and can register a first hurdles victory in this opening contest.
Trainer Caroline Bailey comes into this race with her string in good form and Global Dream looks capable of improving on her 33% strike-rate (2/6) in the last fortnight. The selection is improving with racing this campaign and, having pulled up in a handicap chase over an extended 3m3f at Market Rasen (soft) in December when returning from over a year off the track, he subsequently finished fourth over an extended 3m1f on good-to-soft going here the following month.
The winner on each occasion was the in-form Ange Des Malberaux, while Global Power confirmed his return to form with a good neck second back here on good ground last time out. The step up in distance shouldn’t pose too many issues given the nine-year-old finished a close second in a small-field course-and-distance handicap chase here in April 2017, while Bailey and jockey Harry Skelton come into this contest with a decent 21% strike-rate (9/42) when teaming up together in chases.
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