STAMINA and proven battling qualities are likely to be critical assets at Navan today when conditions are sure to prove gruelling following yesterday's fixture at the track.
And one horse with those attributes in abundance is the redoubtable mare For Bill, which bids for a hat-trick over fences in the featured Irish Stallion Farms EBF Mares Chase
The Michael Winters-trained daughter of Presenting has run a total of 13 times in point-to-points, bumpers, hurdles and chases, and she is yet to finish out of the money -- being beaten only three times in her career.
Last time out at Thurles, the eight-year-old recorded a comprehensive victory over the talented Blazing Tempo and if she repeats that form, under Davy Russell, only the fences stand in her way of another visit to the winner's enclosure.
On her very best behaviour, the free-running Morning Supreme could make a race of it, but the problem is the Willie Mullins-trained eight-year-old tends to take liberties at her fences -- something which she did last time when falling behind For Bill at Thurles. As a result of that worry, For Bill gets the nap vote.
Champion trainer Mullins, however, can get off to the best possible start with C'Est Ca, which has been a trifle disappointing since making the switch to the larger obstacles at the start of the season. Having run well behind the promising Saludos on his debut, the French-bred gelding ran below expectations behind Loup De Saubouas at Naas before being outclassed by the progressive Mr Cracker at Limerick over Christmas.
While his jumping probably needs to be a bit slicker, Paul Townend's mount looks a class above his rivals.
The other novice chase on the card, over three miles, is competitive enough despite attracting a meagre four runners, with Western Charmer probably possessing the best pieces of form over jumps.
Last time out, the Dessie Hughes-trained gelding ran in a Grade One affair at Leopardstown and predictably, he found himself outclassed behind Cheltenham-bound Bostons Angel.
Prior to that outing, the nine-year-old was a respectable second to the highly-regarded Quito De La Roque in a Grade Two at this venue. The fact that the son of Good Thyne is a proven stayer is a marked asset, but a chance is taken on Gordon Elliott's Tharawaat to prove too strong on this occasion.
A confirmed mudlark, Tharawaat broke his duck over fences at Down Royal and then went off favourite for a conditions chase at Gowran Park on Thyestes day, but had to play second fiddle to The Hurl.
He wore cheekpieces on that occasion, but is tried in blinkers this afternoon and if they can bring about an improvement, Russell's mount might be just worth taking a chance on.
The other three contests on the card are tricky-looking handicaps and punters are accordingly advised to tread carefully. A hesitant vote is given to Askmeroe in the Leinster Handicap over two miles and one furlong.
Jim Dreaper's Radharc Na Mara looks another feasible option in the two-and-half-mile handicap. This lightly-raced seven-year-old travelled across the Irish Sea last month to land a novice chase at Sedgefield and that win might just give her the confidence to go in again for Andrew Lynch, at the main expense of Burnt Oil Babe and Code Of The West.
Lynch has decent prospects of a double as he has the leg-up on Hidden Present in the finale over three miles.
Third to Artic Mick at this venue last month, the nine-year-old has since failed to finish at Down Royal and at Punchestown, but if the Bernard Jones-trained gelding can find a nice rhythm early on, he can outstay his opponents in what is sure to be a war of attrition.