Improving Foildubh looks a 'Poplar' choice at Naas
IT may be short on numbers with just five runners, but this afternoon's Murray Spelman Insurance Poplar Square Chase at Naas promises to be an informative affair.
On a card that seeks to promote Kildare GAA, the two-mile Grade Three boasts two of last season's better novices in Rathlin and Hidden Cyclone.
Although neither horse obliged at the highest level, they won seven times between them, Hidden Cyclone's only defeat coming when third to the current Cheltenham Gold Cup favourite Sir Des Champs at Leopardstown back in January.
John 'Shark' Hanlon left him off thereafter, so it will be fascinating to see how he fares now, given that his only other defeat in nine career starts came when third behind First Lieutenant in a Grade One novice hurdle two years ago.
Not surprisingly, Mouse Morris eventually decided against declaring both First Lieutenant and Rathlin.
On the basis of a tame seasonal bow at Limerick, Rathlin has plenty improving to do, but he won a good race here last year prior to finishing second to Flemenstar in the Powers Gold Cup. Naas suits his free-running style and he will strip fitter today.
That said, this might be a gilt-edged opportunity for the relatively unheralded Foildubh.
Trained in Templemore by John Ryan, Foildubh was a really progressive horse last term, earning placed finishes in graded company before finishing second to the subsequent Galway Plate hero Bob Lingo in a handicap at Fairyhouse over Easter.
The eight-year-old then turned that form round to land a tip-top contest off a lofty rating of 137 at Punchestown, and was deeply impressive off a slightly lower hurdle mark at Tipperary on his first run back.
Thus, with the irrepressible Paul Carberry up, Foildubh might just be primed for this more than his two higher-profile rivals. Should Rathlin come unstuck, his Gigginstown Stud ownership could gain quick compensation with Conor O'Dwyer's Folsom Blue in the DSM Demolition Hurdle, though the highlight of the remainder of the card is Mount Benbulben's debut over the larger obstacles.
Gordon Elliott's smart novice hurdler won't have things all his own way in a cracking edition of the Weatherbys Ireland-sponsored beginners' contest, but it will be a disappointment if he doesn't make a bold bid for victory under Davy Condon.
In the O'Callaghan Hotels Maiden Hurdle, Jessica Harrington's Barry Geraghty-ridden Jezki is napped to account for the similarly smart recent bumper winner Ally Cascade.
Lyreen Legend is fancied over at Galway. A three-time hurdle winner last year that was never out of the first three in eight outings, Dessie Hughes' five-year-old concluded that campaign by being placed in Grade One company at Punchestown.