Although only five runners go to post, a thoroughly intriguing contest is in prospect here at Naas on Sunday in this Grade 3 contest. See our betting tips and the full race preview below.
IN SUMMARY: Ball D’Arc is the choice of Bryan Cooper in a race where four out of the five runners are Gigginstown horses and as an improving six year old, that isn’t particularly surprising. He does however face a formidable opponent in PRINCE OF SCARS, who finally has conditions perfect for a big run. Craving truly soft ground and smaller fields, he finally gets both of those for the first time over fences and judging by his hurdling form, much better can be expected of Gordon Elliott’s seven year old by Flemensfirth. This Grade 1 winning hurdler can notch up his first win over fences in this and cement himself as a promising chaser for the future.
1 BALL D’ARC – Improving chaser who posted a career best over these obstacles when winning the Grade 3 Flyingbolt Novice Chase at Navan twenty-one days ago, although was possibly quite fortunate as the leader came down three out when leading. Nevertheless it represented another step forward from Gordon Elliott’s six year old who remains with huge amount of potential in this sphere. Bryan Cooper prefers him out of the battalion of Gigginstown runners in the line up and he looks likely to play a leading role in thus. Respected.
2 ALAMEIN – Intriguing runner who wasn’t the best of these over hurdles, but crushed a field including Dicosimo at Fairyhouse fifteen days ago on chasing debut. He jumped brilliantly that day and effortlessly went clear when asked by Bryan Cooper, despite being impeded by a loose horse. He remains with huge amounts of potential over these obstacles and although he does have something to find with most of these, he is perhaps the least exposed and could be anything. Bryan Cooper deserts him for Ball D’Arc but Mark Enright is a solid alternative and he shouldn’t be discounted lightly.
3 GANGSTER – Signed off for Willie Mullins when well beaten in Grade 1 company at Punchestown in April 2016 over hurdles and joined Henry De Bromhead subsequently. He has raced exclusively over fences for this new trainer and has shown promise in three runs to date, with his latest third at Leopardstown no disgrace against Yorkhill and Jett. More needed against some tough rivals once again but he has to enter calculations on what he has shown thus far, with David Mullins retaining the ride. Perhaps further down the shortlist than some but isn’t one to take likely with the first time cheekpieces enlisted.
4 OSCAR KNIGHT – Has shown massive improvement over fences the last twice, winning at Navan on his penultimate start in December, beating Ball D’Arc and his third in the Paddy Power Chase at Leopardstown a few weeks later was no disgrace at all. Meets Ball D’Arc on worse terms this time around and at the ratings he does have something to find with a few of these, but he is an improving commodity and not one to dismiss with confidence. Mark Walsh takes the ride for Thomas Mullins and he has to be respected.
5 PRINCE OF SCARS – Won the Grade 1 Irish Christmas Hurdle at Leopardstown in December 2015 and although he hasn’t lived up to that form over fences, he hasn’t had optimum conditions in those four runs. Small fields, deep ground and left handed tracks are the conditions he thrives in and for the first time over the larger obstacles he has those conditions in front of him. If getting into a good rhythm early on he looks likely to be tough to stop with everything in his favour and Ball D’Arc (his main rival) should struggle to give him 6lb with all things considered. Jack Kennedy takes the ride on Gordon Elliott’s seven year old and he looks the likely winner of this.