Tawaagg to strengthen Townend's grip on title
Champion jump jockey-elect Paul Townend, who temporarily switches his attentions to the Flat tomorrow, looks set to further enhance his nine-strong lead at the head of the riders' table with a cracking book of rides at Navan this afternoon.
Willie Mullins supplies the Cork-born 20-year-old with two spins at the Meath venue, Tawaagg arguably the better of them in the two-mile novice chase. A runner-up in a decent beginners' event at Leopardstown in January, Tawaagg progressed to win with ease at Gowran Park next time.
While the fact that he jumped right late on that day might not be ideal on today's left-handed circuit, his effort at Leopardstown would suggest that he should handle the course. Furthermore, there is no ignoring the form of the Gowran contest, with the third and sixth, Kyle's Turn and Kilflora, both winning since.
The Hurl, Montan and Uncle Tom Cobley will provide stern opposition, with Montan maybe the biggest threat. Tony Martin's charge has won and been second to Saludos and Prince Erik in three chasing starts, but he has a bit to find with Tawaagg based on their hurdle ratings.
Townend partners Jayo for Mullins in the Grade Two Webster Chase, the most valuable race on the card with a €24,375 winning purse. However, there are others with more exciting recent form, most notably Saludos and Made In Taipan.
Having accounted for Montan and other smart sorts at Navan last time, Saludos is interesting stepping out of novice company here.
Made In Taipan has also been in good heart and is fancied to oblige. Tom Mullins' charge was fifth behind Kempes in the Hennessy, then second behind Golden Silver at Naas. On his third February outing, he managed the same placing behind Stonemaster at Leopardstown, form that has been franked by the winner scoring again since.
Townend might also get on the score sheet with the hat-trick-seeking Bold Present in the 2m 7f handicap hurdle, while Dibella gets the nod in the mares' maiden hurdle.
At Downpatrick tomorrow, Newmill makes the long journey up from Cork to tackle the Kwik Fit Insurance Elite Sales Managers Hurdle.
James Dullea's former champion chaser is reunited with Andrew McNamara for a first time in four years, and the 13-year-old has shown enough sparkle of late to suggest that he can account for six lower-rated rivals.