Wednesday 16 January 2019

Naas Grade One the 'Easy' option for O'Brien star

Joseph O'Brien. Photo: Patrick McCann
Joseph O'Brien. Photo: Patrick McCann

Thomas Kelly

Joseph O'Brien's exciting young hurdler Speak Easy will sidestep tomorrow's 32Red Tolworth Hurdle at Sandown in favour of the Lawlor's Of Naas Novice Hurdle at the Co Kildare venue on Sunday.

The five-year-old made an eyecatching debut over hurdles for O'Brien (right) when beating 20 rivals at Navan last month and should be a live contender for the Naas Grade One.

Speak Easy still holds an entry in the Tolworth, but Frank Berry, racing manager for owner JP McManus, said: "He's going to Naas on Sunday. It looks a very hot race. Samcro might not be running but there are plenty of them in there."

While O'Brien's charge will remain on home soil, one trainer who is determined to take his chances in Britain tomorrow is Gavin Cromwell, who has two intended runners at Chepstow despite travel difficulties yesterday.

Famous Milly in the Finale Juvenile Hurdle and Raz De Maree in the Coral Welsh National were due to travel to Wales by ferry last night. However, earlier in the day crossings were cancelled as the seas were too rough.

"With Famous Milly her race seems to be cutting up so it would be a shame to miss it. We just have to get there first," said Cromwell.

"Raz De Maree was second last year and while he's another year older, this has been the aim.

"He's in great nick, I'm very happy with him and looking forward to running him," added the Co Meath handler.

Elsewhere, the JP McManus team remain in no rush to map out a second-half-of-the-campaign programme for last season's champion juvenile hurdler Defi Du Seuil.

The Philip Hobbs-trained gelding took all before him last term with seven wins in a row that included three Grade Ones.

However, he flopped on his reappearance when a well-beaten fourth to Lil Rockerfeller in the Coral Hurdle over two miles three and a furlongs at Ascot in November. "He's in good form. No plans at the minute," added Frank Berry yesterday. "He's had a nice break. We'll see how he is at the end of the month or early February."

And trainer Fergal O'Brien is leaning towards stepping Colin's Sister back up to three miles for the Cleeve Hurdle at Cheltenham on January 27.

The handler has earmarked the Grade Two contest as the next stopping point for the seven-year-old after she finished third in the Relkeel Hurdle over half a mile shorter at the track on New Year's Day.

"I don't see any reason why we won't go back to Cheltenham at the end of the month for the Cleeve. It is back up in trip and that will suit her," he said.

"I was disappointed with her last time but Paddy (Brennan) was happy enough. He said coming down the hill he thought she would pick up a bit more than she did."

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