Our Duke to land prize with Gold on horizon
As mentioned elsewhere, I'm backing OUR DUKE this afternoon for the JNwine.com Champion Steeplechase at Down Royal (2.30), and if Jessica Harrington's seven-year-old wants to boost his Gold Cup profile, he'll have to be thereabouts today.
Following sustained market support, he was extremely impressive when winning the Irish Grand National at 9/2 and he definitely has the look of a Gold Cup horse about him.
His task has been made markedly easier here with last year's winner Valseur Lido scratched from the final line-up although he'll still have his work cut out against the Gigginstown horses, most notably Road To Respect, a fellow Grade One winner which has already had a successful outing earlier this term. Our Duke will be short at around 4/5 but should take all the beating.
Priced around 14/1, OUT OF THE LOOP gets a tentative vote each-way in the Grade B Billecart-Salmon Handicap Hurdle a little earlier on the same card (1.55). A maiden hurdle winner at Downpatrick recently, a mark of 118 here for a racing weight of 9st 10lbs seems rather lenient, although likely favourite Housesofparliament could have more to come in this sphere having had a decent career on the flat.
I'm surprised to see BALLYOISIN chalked up around 6/1 for the Grade Two MyCarNeedsA.com Steeplechase (3.05). The Presenting gelding, which Enda Bolger describes as having a good future, won a competitive Cork handicap with any amount in hand a couple of weeks ago and that suggests he's ready to take the step up in class here.
Disko is the obvious threat to the bet. Noel Meade's six-year-old beat the aforementioned Our Duke in a Grade One at Leopardstown back in February; form which demands respect, although he'll be giving weight all around and the trip might be on the short side.
We wave goodbye to the flat at Naas tomorrow and GUSTAVUS VASSA might be the one to side with each-way in the feature Naas November Handicap (3.0), priced in the region of 12/1. Formerly trained by Andrew Oliver, he made his debut for Willie Mullins in the Irish Cesarewitch last time but he just didn't settle, and the heavy conditions didn't help. I'm willing to overlook that run as he's shown some promise in the past and he gets in near the bottom of the weights here on a rating of 86, which seems reasonably fair.
LAWS OF SPIN offers a bit of value around 6/1 in the Listed Finale Stakes (4.0). Another one from the Mullins yard, he was out of sorts in the Newmarket Cesarewitch but he previously dug deep to win a valuable handicap at Leopardstown. You can easily see him bouncing back to form here.
Dermot Weld's filly Tocco D'amore is also worth a mention having beat some talented colts in a maiden when last seen back in the spring.
We also have jump racing from Cork tomorrow with WOODLAND OPERA tipped around 4/1 in the Grade Three Paddy Power Track My Bet Irish EBF Novice Steeplechase (2.40). He looked in need of the run when third of five in a similar contest at Punchestown recently and Jessica Harrington has picked a race in which the favourite, Jury Duty, could be a little weak at this distance.
Finally, consider backing ROBIN DES FORIT around 5/2 in the Listed Paddy Power Acca Insurance Irish EBF Novice Hurdle (1.40), a winner at this level already at Limerick.