Follow the Rogue at Navan
Robbie McNamara is refreshingly bullish when his horses run and he will surely fancy Rogue Agent in Navan's opening maiden hurdle this afternoon.
The weather has been getting colder, and big-field maiden hurdles at Navan can only signal the coming of winter. Rogue Agent, however, is set to enjoy conditions that remain relatively quick for the average jumper.
The going is set to be yielding but the key to Rogue Agent's prospects is the reversion to two miles today. As a son of Montjeu, he is an extreme rarity in that he has won over six furlongs and he did not get home on his hurdling debut at Galway (having run a little keenly), so it was surprising he stepped up to two and a half miles since at Down Royal, when his stamina ran out.
Rider Conor Brassil, son of Grand National winner Martin, has caught the eye and he takes 7lb off the nap selection's burden. This does not look much of a race.
"He hasn't shown on the track what he shows us at home," says McNamara. "He seems in great form and if he produces his homework he should easily take care of these.
"Conor is riding well. He's in with me every day and is a natural horseman."
The At The Races Hurdle affords Red Giant the chance to underline his progression and would be a timely winner for Sean Flanagan and Noel Meade, whose relationship was copper-fastened this week when Meade named the Wexford native as stable jockey.
It has been a remarkable turnaround for Flanagan, whose career seemed to have plateaued, and he has a willing partner in the son of Beneficial, which has an excellent attitude and staying power that suggests Navan will be ideal.
Bookmakers will be on guard ahead of the two-mile handicap hurdle, given that Tony Martin and JP McManus team up with Cillian's Return and the Charles Byrnes-handled Crystal Pearl reappears after her unfortunate Galway tumble.
There was no apparent market support for Crystal Pearl at Ballybrit but she looked primed to challenge until her exit. Davy Russell rides again.
McManus bought Cillian's Return out of the Bill Farrell stable. He was hardly cheap, given he beat Vigil in a bumper, but since leaving Farrell he has only won once - that in a maiden hurdle. However, he could be much better than a mark of 111.
McManus appears to have a strong chance in the Brogan Group Handicap Hurdle. He is double-handed. Perhaps Steamboat Quay can build on a pleasing Galway effort.
The feature Meath Farm Machinery Handicap Steeplechase is a pretty horrible race to solve. Brassil could cajole Colbert Station to victory but a chance is taken on the first-time-blinkered Na Trachtalai Abu.