Gurteen can boost Min's Festival claims by taking Navan opener for Tyner and Enright
Published 23/01/2016 | 02:30
Gurteen's sole defeat in three starts was inflicted by so-called Cheltenham banker Min, so he is fancied to justify nap billing in this afternoon's opening maiden hurdle at Navan.
Robert Tyner's son of Golan ran out a deeply impressive winner of a Dromahane point-to-point only last November.
He then emerged with credit when second to the highly touted Supreme Novices' Hurdle favourite in a Punchestown maiden hurdle, before reverting to a bumper at Leopardstown, where he duly obliged.
This afternoon, Gurteen switches back to hurdling under Philip Enright. He has come quite a way in a short space of time, and he should be good enough to see off De Plotting Shed here.
Gordon Elliott's Beneficial gelding won a Fairyhouse bumper in style in November. He was then one-paced when fourth in an Ascot Listed event, and makes his hurdle bow now, having fallen late on in a point when going well in the spring.
It is not beyond De Plotting Shed to score for Bryan Cooper, but he might need the experience.
Elliott and Cooper should take the novices' hurdle with Victory Mill. Successful in a point-to-point in 2014, this King's Theatre six-year-old wasn't seen again until winning a Fairyhouse maiden hurdle in December, when the fall of Au Quart De Tour helped his cause.
Victory Mill clearly needed time to mature, but he has scope to keep improving. If he does, he should beat the likes of Conal, Last Goodbye and the 2011 Irish Grand National hero, Organisedconfusion.
Elliott can also take the longer maiden hurdle with the Jack Kennedy-ridden Woodford Island. This fellow is nil from eight starts in all codes, but he rarely runs a bad race. Chances are he will be good enough this time in what is a pretty weak affair.
In the conditions hurdle, Elliott has an intriguing runner in Bright New Dawn. The smart chaser sets a fair standard now that he reverts to the smaller obstacles, although preference is for Willie Mullins' Noble Inn, the champion trainer's solitary runner on the card.
Paul Townend's mount hasn't been one of the stable's more prolific campaigners, but he is no slouch. While he misfired in a competitive handicap at Ascot last month, he might be suited better by small-field races such as this, and he also receives 5lb from Bright New Dawn.
The Ted Walsh-trained Champagne James will be popular in the beginners' chase. Barry Connell's charge has plenty of experience, and would surely go close if he puts his best foot forward.
However, he has never been one to trust, so preference is for Arctic Skipper. Vincent Halley's Flemensfirth gelding has run pretty well in defeat behind Killultagh Vic and Measureofmydreams in his two chasing starts, the sort of form that should be good enough to win this.
Meanwhile, veteran handler Jonjo O'Neill and Welsh Grand National-winning trainer Kerry Lee were among several trainers and riders to yesterday welcome the re-opening of Hereford racecourse, which has been closed since 2012 but will now see jumping action return to the track on October 6.