Wednesday 22 March 2017

Coole River's stamina crucial to Pittoni duel

Damien McElroy

The Johnstown Novice Hurdle, transferred from Sunday's snowed-off Naas fixture, adds a touch of glamour to this afternoon's otherwise ordinary eight-race Navan card that suffers numerically in five instances.

The sudden overkill of eight fixtures here in six days was bound to prove counter-productive to an extent, even if the feature benefits from a likely keen duel between recent Leopardstown scorers Coole River and Pittoni.

These fine money-spinners compete at either end of the weights scale for supremacy in the Johnstown Novice Hurdle and the pace, or possible lack of it, that evolves in this contest will be a crucial factor.

Undefeated since joining the Charles Byrnes stable from John Oxx's yard, Pittoni landed the Grade One odds with the minimum of fuss at the Dublin track three weeks ago when confidently handled by Davy Russell.

It remains to be seen, though, how much strength in depth there was in that event compared to an earlier, older affair in which Coole River took a notable scalp when overtaking hotpot Quel Esprit close home.

Jessica Harrington's sensible decision to avoid Cheltenham with the top weight could pay off here presuming Robert Power makes plenty of use of his mount's proven stamina in an attempt to get Pittoni off the bridle.

Whatever his fate in this Grade Two highlight, Russell can succeed aboard another sound stayer, Hangover, runner-up for the Thyestes Chase, in the Irish Stallion Farms Novice Chase which concludes the Jackpot.

Although local trainer Noel Meade's Across The Bay made a smooth transition to the larger obstacles when outpacing subsequent winner Kimberlite King at Naas, Hangover shapes as though three miles will suit him ideally en route to a possible crack at the Irish Grand National on Easter Monday.

Withdrawn

The following Trim Beginners Chase, from which Mikael D'Haguenet regrettably was withdrawn yesterday morning by Willie Mullins, now looks at the mercy of Meade's former Cheltenham hero Nicanor.

A smooth success at Thurles yesterday for his Fairyhouse conqueror, Kempes, indicates Davy Condon's mount will recoup those losses, with the extra half a mile on a left-hand track also in the veteran's favour.

Irish Independent

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