Conditions ideal for Warrior
HAVING been paid a fine compliment by Flemenstar's bloodless Arkle triumph at Leopardstown, Bog Warrior is out to get his own campaign back on track at Naas.
Tony Martin's exciting eight-year-old made an early exit at the Dublin venue over Christmas in a race that was eventually won by Blackstairmountain, which re-opposes today.
Previously, the Gigginstown House Stud-owned gelding had run Flemenstar ragged on the day that they made their respective chasing debuts at Navan, and he confirmed the promise of that showing with a rout of the Drinmore Chase field at Fairyhouse.
While that victory came over two and a half miles, this afternoon's BBA Ireland Opera Hat Novice Chase is over the minimum trip. Still, given the way that Bog Warrior strode out keenly before paying the price for a careless mistake under Davy Russell last time, he's hard not to fancy again in testing conditions that he enjoys.
Of his five rivals, Blackstairmountain is the obvious danger. Willie Mullins' runner is now a Grade One winner over both hurdles and fences, though there was no obvious reason for his tame defeat behind Flemenstar, other than that he wasn't good enough.
Ruby Walsh, who rides Blackstairmountain, can get one over on his championship rival Russell in the opening Paddy Power Cheltenham Trial Sunday Maiden Hurdle. Both riders are on duty for Mullins on first-timers, with Rich Ricci's French import Shamar preferred over Gigginstown's former Luca Cumani-trained Midnight Oil.
Mullins could also take the bumper with the smart Thurles winner Mozoltov, but his Lord Gale is passed over in favour of Lean Times in the Tote Jackpot Maiden Hurdle. In an open 24-runner contest, Noel Meade's seven-year-old, a staying-on fourth over course and distance last month, appeals as an improving sort under Davy Condon.
In the beginners' chase, Ninetieth Minute will be popular for Tom Taaffe and Andrew Lynch on the back of a Fairyhouse outing that saw him push Shot From The Hip quite hard. However, the jury is still out on the reliability of that form, so Shinrock Paddy gets the nod to justify the nap selection instead.
In four starts over fences this term, Paul Nolan's representative has kept good company, latterly running solid races in defeat behind Bog Warrior at Fairyhouse and Last Instalment at Leopardstown. With Barry Geraghty booked, Shinrock Paddy drops in grade now, so he should gain a deserved win.