Tranquil Sea can rise above rivals to show festival flair
Tomorrow's Naas card, sponsored by Paddy Power and billed as a trials day for next month's Cheltenham Festival, should serve up some informative fare.
Apart from three decent Grade Two events, a number of exciting prospects are pitted against each other in the concluding bumper, a race won by the ever-improving Rite Of Passage in 2009.
The day's feature, sponsored by Paddypowerpoker.com, sees the November Cheltenham winner Tranquil Sea tackle five rivals over two miles. Second to Golden Silver over the trip at Christmas, Edward O'Grady's charge may again be slightly inconvenienced by the minimum distance, but will nonetheless be hard to beat.
Mansony would pose a threat if he improves on his third to Big Zeb at Punchestown, while Scotsirish lines out on the back of a fine win in the Normans Grove Chase.
However, having had Scotsirish behind him at Leopardstown, Tranquil Sea, which is three pounds better off with that one now, remains the form pick. Should Andrew McNamara'a mount collect, he could well shoot to the head of the market for next month's Ryanair Chase.
In the Woodlands Park 100 Nas Na Riogh Novice Chase, An Cathaoir Mor is tasked with conceding seven pounds to six rivals as he bids to follow up his excellent Grade One Arkle Chase win. A preference for soft ground is likely to keep the David Casey-ridden gelding away from Cheltenham, but favourable conditions tomorrow suggest he ought to be good enough to give the weight.
The other graded race on the programme, the Paddypower.com Novice Hurdle, is far less straightforward. Having turned over an odds-on Quel Esprit at Leopardstown, Jessica Harrington's Coole River deserves respect as he drops back to two miles.
Dr Whizz, which beat subsequent MCR Hurdle hero Puyol when landing a maiden over Christmas, must also enter calculations, as must the Naas winner Grey Soldier. While the four-year-old Pittoni might find one or two of his elders hard to beat, he isn't lightly written off either, but just preferred for the €29,250 prize is Morning Supreme. Willie Mullins' front-running mare has a touch of class, and could be hard to reel in.
Ruby Walsh, who will be doing the steering on Morning Supreme, is also fancied to collect the earlier two-mile hurdle on Take It Easee for Prunella Dobbs. The Wicklow-based trainer is enjoying her best season to date with three winners, and this five-year-old did little wrong on its handicap debut.
Having won a maiden hurdle at Limerick, Take It Easee went down by just a head in what was a fair handicap at Gowran Park a month ago. He has gone up five pounds for that, but looks on the upgrade.
In the bumper, seven of the eight contenders are winners, and a strong case could be made for at least five of those. Preference is for Sizing Mexico. Henry De Bromhead's five-year-old was well fancied to win his point-to-point and first bumper, and duly obliged on both occasions. He could be a bit special.