weight of evidence points to ebadiyan
With the recent Punchestown winner Mourad in receipt of weight from all eight of his opponents in the Ladbrokes.com Boyne Hurdle at Navan tomorrow, Willie Mullins' useful five-year-old could go off a fairly short-priced favourite.
Given his profile as a progressive hurdler that improved considerably for the step up to two and a half miles last time, Mourad's place at the head of the market is understandable.
On closer inspection, though, Ebadiyan (above) may be the horse to take on side in the Grade Two. Early industry prices suggest that Oliver O'Brady's grey could trade at up to 5/1. While he may not be quite that big on the day, he might not be far off it either if the Mullins horse attracts support.
A winner at Naas in January, on official ratings Ebadiyan is actually the one that is best off at the weights. The handicapper has him on an official mark of 154, yet the conditions of the race mean that he is in receipt of weight from three inferior horses, and he is at least 9lbs better in with those below him than he would be in a handicap.
Were he to meet Mourad in a handicap, for example, off their current marks Ebadiyan would be conceding 12lbs to Mourad, but here he must concede only three. Of course, that is all theory in one sense, but O'Brady's star showed signs of returning to his best in practical terms when he accounted for Muirhead most recently.
Up until then, John Cullen's partner had struggled to find his feet this season after a promising run as a novice last term. However, he displayed great heart to fend off the persistent challenge of Muirhead at Naas, and it would be no surprise to see him build on that effort now.
Another to consider tomorrow is Thievery in the two-mile handicap chase at Hereford. Representing Henry Daly and Richard Johnson, both of whom have consistent strike-rates at the course of 20pc plus, Thievery has not been sighted since running a fair second on his seasonal debut at Ludlow in October.
The lack of a recent run isn't a concern, though, as the nine-year-old goes well fresh. On that last outing, Thievery was beaten by the highly progressive Zorro De La Vega, which might subsequently have completed a four-timer but for a late fall at Lingfield.
Looking at the make-up of tomorrow's contest, Thievery won't come up against anything quite so prolific this time. As a dual course-and-distance winner, at around 7/2 he is value to collect.