Dinaria Des Obeaux the pick of Elliott's team
Punters looking to get off to a good start at Navan this afternoon should consider backing SPADES ARE TRUMPS, Barry Geraghty's choice of the two JP McManus horses in the 2018 Navan Membership Rated Novice Hurdle (12.25). Gavin Cromwell's gelding looked a little green on his debut in a novice hurdle at Wexford in October, but surprised the market with a placing at 50/1.
That race was won by Joseph O'Brien's Early Doors which has since taken a Grade Three, and the selection built on his early promise when beating Henry de Bromhead's odds-on favourite Paloma Blue in a Punchestown maiden hurdle last time out.
He looks a capable sort and I was expecting the price to be less than the 9/2 on offer at the time of writing.
In the feature Grade B Handicap Hurdle (1.35), I'm quite keen on Charles Byrnes' HARETH, which slips in here at the bottom of the weights off a mark of 115. He was in need of the run when finishing mid-division in a useful handicap hurdle at Punchestown on New Year's Eve off the same rating, and I suppose there's a chance that the handicapper has him in his grip.
However, he was improving quite quickly towards the end of last season and might have more to come with the cobwebs now shaken off.
Tomorrow's action comes from Thurles and I'm siding with Gordon Elliott's DINARIA DES OBEAUX, which takes on Miss Eyecatcher for the second time as the pair meet in the Grade Two Coolmore National Hunt Sires Irish EBF Mares Novice Chase (3.20).
The selection came out on top when they last met at Clonmel, and she also beat Girly Girl and Magic Of Light on that occasion.
There's no reason to believe any of those can reverse the form here. A couple of Grade One races proved too tough, but she's got a chance at this level and I'm quite happy to take the 7/4 available in the early markets.
Elliott has won the Grade Three Kinloch Brae Chase (2.50) on two occasions with Don Cossack and A TOI PHIL is tipped around 11/10 to bring the prize back to the yard.
A proven winner at this level under these conditions, he was no match for Willie Mullins' Bachasson in a Listed Chase at Tramore, but he's beaten a couple of these already and this looks a great opportunity to get back into the winners' enclosure for the first time since September.
The lightly-raced American Tom is one I've found hard to figure out and could be the danger horse for Willie Mullins. He was going well and hit 4/6 in-running in a Grade Three at Naas in November, but I'm not sure if he ran out of gas because he was unfit, or simply wasn't good enough.
Finally, ARTICULUM is an intriguing entry in the W.T. O'Grady Memorial Irish EBF Novice Hurdle (1.50) and the 7/2 on offer yesterday evening looks a couple of ticks too high.
He's turned out to be a bit of a surprise package and had been away from the racecourse for quite some time due to ligament problems, but I reckon he even surprised trainer Terrence O'Brien with 35-length comeback win in a maiden at Cork in November.