Things have been a little bit quiet since the Christmas Festivities on the racing front and Saturday’s action was tough going for punters. In the Sunday gloom, there’s a couple of absolute gems of races to look forward to this afternoon, both of which could hold possible clues for Spring…
As far as track types go, Naas and Plumpton couldn’t be more different. But for one reason and another we’ll get onto, all eyes will respectfully be on them at two times within the one hour this afternoon. The first encounter of choice is the 1.10pm at Plumpton, where exciting French raider Master Dino bids to nail a chance at the £60,000 Plumpton > Cheltenham Festival winners bonus, by landing a Novices’ Chase here in the very early new year on route to glory in March. This 5yo has won his last five races and is clearly very good. He likes to be held up and time a stalking challenge, but KNOCKNANUSS loves to tear off in front and we essentially have a classic clash of racing styles from two evenly matched horses...ideal.
In terms of respective ability, this is a very close match-up, but the figures I use have the Gary Moore horse comfortably ahead by around 5lb on their best efforts; though Master Dino does get a handy 5lb here to negate it. So, what’s to split them? Well, assuming Slate House and Pertemps Final runner-up Glenloe will fall just short of the bar, I think Knocknanuss will break the French challenger. He was brilliant at Newbury, not far off how good Lalor was first time out and he absolutely bullied several in-form, promising individuals in the process. Knocknanuss is a bit of a nutter and there’s always a risk his free spirit will be his undoing in top company, but I have a lot of time for the horse, I've tipped him up for the Arkle on GG and think Master Dino has his work firmly cut out to catch him on UK debut.
Over in Naas, the Grade 1 Lawlor’s of Naas Novices’ Hurdle sees the return of a real buzz horse of Gordon Elliott’s called Battleoverdoyen. This 6yo looked really good in a Punchestown bumper first time out, impressing with the ease in which he did things. Next time out at Navan - a demanding course for a maiden hurdle on only your second visit to the races - he destroyed 20 horses on his jumping bow with a superb effort. Running to an RPR of 140 and a Topspeed rating of 114, he produced easily one of the best novice performances this season, at either side of the Irish Sea. With that fact in mind, you could argue he is a reasonable bet at the 15/8 available this morning. However, there is some depth to the race beyond the front end prices and perceived ability. On bare form, Tornado Flyer (134/104) has a good bit to find with Battleoverdoyen on his maiden hurdle win, but he does have proven form at the trip over the unbeaten Gigginstown owned horse and was of course a Grade 1 performer in bumpers, so it is no surprise to see them sharing favouritism in the 7/4-15/8 range.
At the the prices though I will hazard a go on the Mullins second string runner COME TO ME, who ran to RPR 142 / TS 113 in a two mile maiden hurdle at Cork a month ago. There was a lot to like about the way this 7yo travelled throughout the contest, before staying on very strongly to score by 17 lengths. He is unproven going left handed and like Battleoverdoyen, has stamina for this stiff 2m4f test to prove, but at odds of 9/1 I think he’s a little bit overpriced.
Knocknanuss is part of GG's Tasty Treble for Sunday.
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