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McNamara can double title efforts

Long-time championship pacesetter Andrew McNamara, who would welcome a couple of winners to maintain his challenge for a title which is also being coveted by leader Paul Townend and Paul Carberry, could be the jockey to follow at Naas.

Patrons at the Kildare venue can keep tabs on the Ireland-Italy rugby match on televisions throughout the enclosure as McNamara seeks to double up over fences for his main employer Edward O'Grady aboard English import Torphichen and Solstice Knight.

Torphichen's creditable third to Realt Dubh and Noble Prince at Leopardstown after Christmas in the Grade One Bord na Mona Chase entitles the Alhaarth gelding to preference in the Opera Hat Novice Chase, won in the past two years by Joncol and Captain Cee Bee.

Prince Erik would prefer a greater test of stamina and the biggest threat to McNamara's mount could be Leopardstown scorer Rahan de Marcigny.

Shirley Casper will probably be obliged to settle for place money yet again in the novice chase if Solstice Knight, for the O'Grady-McNamara partnership, steps up somewhat on his decent, if distant, third to Sam Adams and Arabella Boy on his belated return to action at Fairyhouse three weeks ago.

The Bob Back gelding, which previously led in the pack at Navan behind Sports Line on his chasing debut, should be more effective in the likely very testing conditions than Shirley Casper, whose stable companion Launchpad might make a bright start to his new career in the opening maiden hurdle.

A Windsor maiden winner over an extended mile for Luca Cumani, the son of Starcraft, which was acquired to join Michael O'Leary's Gigginstown House Stud team, gets a handy weight concession here from that admirable money-spinner Leah Claire.

The champion owner may follow up an hour later when the Tony Martin-trained Fairyhouse bumper victor Bog Warrior tackles the Mullins family's Thurles final-flight casualty Lios A Choill in what seems a match for the Tote Jackpot Maiden Hurdle prize.

Later on O'Leary's colours will also be carried by the Willie Mullins-trained Samain, which triumphed on his first start for the stable at Punchestown, even if personal preference is for 'Shark' Hanlon's impressive previous Leopardstown hero Star Neuville.

Irish Independent