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Henry of Bromhead’s Grand Jury beat Minella Cocooner comfortably in a point-to-point and then ran a blinder when second to Ginto in the Grade One Lawlors of Naas Novices’ Hurdle, finishing just in front of another of Saturday’s rivals, Hollow Games. He looks a bit of value in this contest and if the De Bromhead stable was firing on all cylinders, he’d be a little shorter in the market.
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You could argue that Willie Mullins’ Vauban was unlucky not to win a maiden hurdle at Punchestown when hampered by the eventual winner, Pied Piper. He was only beaten a neck and had to switch twice and jockey Paul Townend reported that he suffered interference all the way up the straight.
We all saw what Pied Piper did at Cheltenham last Saturday when storming home without coming off the bridle in the Triumph Hurdle trial, so that piece of form warrants a serious upgrade now.
Pied Pier’s stablemate Fil Dor is unbeaten and won the Grade One Knight Frank Hurdle at Christmas over course and distance. The slower the ground the better for his chances and Gordon Elliott should know exactly where he stands with his Triumph Hurdle entries after this contest. I just favor Vauban’s form on what we saw of him at Punchestown and subsequently Pied Piper at Cheltenham.
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This mare jumped brilliantly last time behind Ferny Hollow in the Grade One Racing Post Novices Chase. She gets upwards of 7lbs from her rivals again and 9lbs from the likely market leader Blue Lord. I loved the way River Detel went through that race and that combined with the weight allowance makes her the selection.
I have a real soft spot for Dallas Des Pictons and it’s hard to believe he has only won twice over hurdles, including this contest in 2019, despite being second and fifth in two Martin Pipe Conditional Hurdles at the Festival. He’s an each-way play and the obvious dangers are Panda Bay and Dunboyne who were first and fifth respectively in the Pertemps Handicap qualifier over Christmas at this venue.
Willie Mullins’ runner Kemboy is a real course specialist and has won and been second in this contest for the past two years. The ground is not a problem and he gets the nod over a really good field for this contest that includes previous winner Delta Work, UK challenger Frodo and of course, the reigning Gold Cup champ Minella Indo, who is on a bit of a retrieval mission after his King George VI Chase flop at Kempton.
He’s a five-time winner in his career for Ted Walsh and has run well at this venue before. Talented claimer Shane Fitzgerald takes 7lbs off his back and Batcio is definitely of interest in a wide open 2m 1f Chase contest.
The Mullins team seems to have a rich batch of bumper horses this season and Easy Vega was a very good winner at this track over Christmas. Victory here would surely cement his position as the stable’s main hope for the Champion Bumper at Cheltenham in a little over five weeks’ time.
13:05 – Grand Jury 13:35 – Vauban 14:10 – Detel River 14:45 – Dallas Des Pictons (each way) 15:15 – Kemboy 15:50 – Batcio 16:25 – Easy Vega
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