Hogan can land National Trial as mares set to prosper
The recent equine flu outbreak means that Irish racing is the only show in town this weekend as two decent meetings on these shores are magnified in importance.
With racing stalled in the UK until next Wednesday at the earliest, some top-class British contests fall by the wayside this weekend and the Irish may steal a march in terms of preparation until the equine flu is put to bed once and for all.
Tomorrow's €100,000 BoyleSports Grand National Trial (4.20) at Punchestown is this weekend's showpiece and Gordon Elliott is mob-handed with six runners, while owners Gigginstown House Stud have seven contenders among the 17-strong field.
None of them jump off the page as progressive sorts, however, with Elliott's Grade One winner Don Poli heading the weights while last year's Irish Grand National winner General Principle also takes his chance for the Cullentra handler.
Last year's National Trial and Irish Grand National runner-up Ilseofhopendreams is one of three for Willie Mullins along with Thyestes faller Some Neck and Orion D'aubrelle, while Tom Scudamore is an eye-catching jockey booking on Henry de Bromhead's Solomn Grundy.
This could be a glorious opportunity for some of the game's lesser lights to plunder a big pot though with John 'Shark' Hanlon expecting a big run from his lightly-weighted Kilkishen (9-10) with English jockey Sean Bowen making the trip across the Irish Sea to take the mount.
It may pay to side with something at bigger odds with a minimum of four places up for grabs, however, and Youcantcallherthat is an interesting candidate for trainer/jockey Denis Hogan.
While there are some question marks about whether she will stay the near 3m5f trip, the progressive eight-year-old mare has been confined to three hurdles runs this season - where she has shown rude health - and looks to be laid out for this.
Youcantcallherthat didn't land a blow in a messy race behind The Storyteller in a Punchestown Festival Grade One last year but landed Grade Two and Grade Three events prior to that and can reward each-way punters at double-figure odds.
A cracking Listed Novice Hurdle (2.20) leads the opening half of proceedings where Elliott's Chosen Mate and Mullins' Prince D'Aubrelle are sure to vie for favouritism in an intriguing heat.
Chosen Mate scored on debut for the Elliott yard two weeks ago and is likely to improve on that surprise effort - going off an unfancied 14/1 shot - while nine-year-old Prince D'Aubrelle defied a 949-day break to score in a maiden hurdle at Tipperary when last seen in May.
The value option could be Sinoria, however, with positive vibes emanating from De Bromhead's yard that she could be as classy as stablemate Honeysuckle. If she is, this is well within her grasp after a stylish Down Royal victory over Christmas.
All eyes will be on Naas today with ITV Racing broadcasting five races live and Mullins' Pravalaguna will take all the beating in the featured Listed BBA Ireland Opera Hat Mares Chase (2.10).
A winner at last year's Punchestown Festival, the seven-year-old mare was impressive when landing a mares' beginners at Limerick over Christmas and should have this within her grasp with Elliott's Synopsis likely to give her most to do.
The Connolly's Red Mills Auction Novice Hurdle (12.40) should be a penalty kick for the classy City Island given what Martin Brassil's charge has shown thus far. As short as 8/1 to land one of the novice hurdles at next month's Festival, the six-year-old can book his ticket to the Cotswolds with another impressive performance.
The EMS Copiers Rated Novice Hurdle (2.40) may come down to a shoot-out between the Joseph O'Brien pair of Konitho and Band Of Outlaws but given that the former was a recent purchase by JP McManus, it would be a mild surprise if Konitho can't get the job done.