Tyner's smart Gurteen should frank Min's form in good company at Naas
On a card of mixed quality at Naas tomorrow, the smart novice hurdler Gurteen will get a chance to pay Min another timely compliment ahead of the Cheltenham Festival.
Robert Tyner's Golan six-year-old has been beaten just once in four starts, and it was the exciting Supreme Novices' Hurdle favourite that inflicted that defeat in a Punchestown maiden hurdle in December.
Gurteen had previously dotted up on its November point-to-point debut, and reverted to a bumper at Leopardstown over Christmas, knuckling down well to win. On switching back to hurdles, he posted his most impressive performance yet, treating De Plotting Shed with contempt at Navan in January.
The runner-up has since done its bit for the form by readily scoring at long odds-on at Clonmel, and now Gurteen will have its mettle tested in slightly better company again. He and Philip Enright face just four others in the Irish Racing Writers Kingsfurze Novices' Hurdle, a €27,500 Listed affair over two miles.
Willie Mullins's duo Burgas and Royal Caviar are both fair sorts, while the Gigginstown Stud apparent second string Attribution got closer to Min in a Punchestown Grade Two than Gurteen had. The Henry de Bromhead-trained six-year-old cannot be discounted under Davy Russell, and Gordon Elliott's JP McManus-owned bumper winner Sutton Place is no slouch.
Still, the sense remains that Gurteen will be a class apart. All the evidence to date would suggest that he has a bundle of quality, so he is expected to confirm his progression here.
In the featured €50,000 Leinster National, Jonathan Burke makes his return after suffering two compressed vertebrae fractures in a fall at the end of January.
He partners Jim Dreaper's Grand National contender Goonyella for his employers Alan and Ann Potts, and last year's Scottish National runner-up has a live chance.
Of the 13 runners in what is an open contest, though, a chance is taken on the Enright-ridden Forever Gold. Edward Cawley's nine-year-old is four pounds out of the handicap, but he has been in grand form.
Second to Bless The Wings off a mark of 113 in the Porterstown Chase, he then won off 118 over flights at Leopardstown. A dour stayer, he is in off an effective mark of 120 now, and he is capable of scoring off that.
Tyner also has a chance of doubling up with Fairly Legal in the €25,000 handicap hurdle, Barry Geraghty preferring him to McManus's other runners, A Great View and Noble Emperor.
Another point-to-point winner that was placed in decent maiden hurdles on its first two track starts, Fairly Legal then won here in pretty facile fashion, beating Call It Magic. Well held in third was the consistent Haymount, and a first-time rating of 129 might be one that Fairly Legal can exploit.
Call It Magic is also on duty in the maiden hurdle. Noel Meade's course bumper winner A Genie In Abottle is a threat, but Call It Magic can justify nap billing for Ruby Walsh and his brother-in-law Ross O'Sullivan. The oversized Indian River six-year-old is going to be a bit limited over flights, but he has an engine.
He has won a point-to-point and a bumper and was placed in two hurdles over intermediate trips, including when third to Acapella Bourgeois at Leopardstown. Here, he steps up to three miles, and that is expected to prove crucial in getting him over the line in front.
Walsh is on the Navan casualty Tell Us More in the Grade Three novices' chase, with Bryan Cooper preferring Rule The World. Incredibly, Mouse Morris's nine-year-old is still a maiden over fences, but he really should lose that indignity here.
Second to Fine Rightly in this in 2015, Rule The World filled the same spot behind No More Heroes in a Leopardstown Grade One, prior to finishing fifth in the Thyestes. If he runs to that level, he ought to win this.
At Gowran Park today, Double Island is napped to enhance both Min and Gurteen's credentials. De Bromhead's seven-year-old didn't get home when third behind them over two-and-a-quarter; he drops to two miles for today's maiden, so he should win.