Thursday 22 March 2018

Weather will test punters' Navan strategies but Wondersnevercease can defy elements

Billy Lee rides Wondersnevercease. Photo: Getty Images
Billy Lee rides Wondersnevercease. Photo: Getty Images

Johnny Ward

The calm of this weekend precedes the Irish Champions Weekend storm that follows but, if anything, the winners may come easier today at Navan and tomorrow at Dundalk than at Leopardstown and the Curragh.

Punters need to keep tabs with the weather this morning and afternoon in Co Meath. Considerable rain is certain to fall; it is a question of when. If it is heavy from noon onwards, expect a few non-runners at Navan.

By the time Wondersnevercease tackles the Irish Stallion Farms European Breeders Fund Fillies Maiden, which takes place late on the card, the turf might have softened. Trainer Andy Oliver does not place extreme emphasis on horses being ready to fire on their debut and, as such, that the daughter of Makfi was able to finish third on her debut in a mile maiden at Navan is really positive.

Plenty of Makfi's progeny like a little ease, should conditions worsen significantly, and it seems likely that she can improve beyond Heartful, behind which she was a mere nose on her debut, with the deeply frustrating Schubert another nose back in fourth. Heartful was poorly drawn on that occasion, in her defence, but is pretty exposed. Wondersnevercease gets the nap vote.

Quality trumps quantity in the Irish Stallion Farms European Breeders Fund Race, a €20,000 contest in which all but one of the runners are rated 100 or more.

Flight Risk is quite ground-versatile, takes his racing seamlessly and is a hopeful selection. The stiff nature of Navan's concluding furlong will favour the Teofilo-bred, which stays farther.

The feature €40,000 Irish Stallion Farms European Breeders Fund Premier Nursery Handicap has been surprisingly poorly supported.

Callender likes the track and his form is rock-solid. Moreover, he is adaptable when it comes to the ground. His Windsor Castle effort when beaten under four lengths might well suffice.

The campaign that Andy Slattery has enjoyed has been quite extraordinary: he has had more Irish winners than Eddie Lynam and Kevin Prendergast - to name but two.

That Comhghairdeas has not been seen since the season's opening day must rate a niggling concern in the opening Irish Stallion Farms European Breeders Fund Auction Maiden but this is a pretty winnable affair and he is clearly promising.

Crocodile Shoes is a fascinating runner in the New Kilberry Restaurant Handicap. After he got off the mark at Roscommon, rider Donnacha O'Brien opined that the mile-and-a-quarter trip was not ideally far enough for the son of Galileo.

Today's demanding mile and five furlongs at Navan will prove an altogether different test and, one suspects, it will bring about progress from a horse endowed with considerable stamina.

By far the best race at Dundalk tomorrow is the Bar One Racing Handicap, with a purse of €25,000 and a field of 11.

As ever on Ireland's only all-weather surface over the minimum trip, the draw will be pivotal, and Shrill has fared reasonably well in that regard.

It is true that her form figures are not especially inspiring but Shrill might react favourably to blinkers and it is notable that Billy Lee gets the ride as former Kildare midfielder Willie McCreery also has Ostatnia in this.

Shrill has not done a great deal of racing but is only marginally higher in the handicap than when winning today's nursery at Navan in pleasing style 12 months back.

The lock of the day on the polytrack is Danse Rouge in the second division of the Ecological Waste Management Ltd Handicap. Dropping back to a mile and the box draw in one are both apparent positives for the filly here.

Cenotaph is a fascinating runner in the DLK Quality Fuels Apprentice Maiden. With a mark of 72 so tempting, it is intriguing that Aidan O'Brien tackles a maiden with the son of War Front.

Irish Independent

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