A field of eight go to post for a competitive handicap at Downpatrick on Sunday, see our betting tips and the full race preview below.
IN SUMMARY: I’m An Izz Wizz has been very consistent of late and ran out of stream late on at Down Royal in January so will appreciate going back in trip, but he’ll have to settle for minor honours again as this looks set to go to CERCA TROVA. The eleven year old is starting to look very well treated on the best of her hurdling form, with her chasing mark now 9lb below her one over timber. She was far from disgraced when third at Clonmel over hurdles on her latest start and will appreciate going back up in trip under Jonathan Moore. She loves it here at Downpatrick and can notch up a fourth career win in this, with perhaps Willow Grange filling out third place.
1 ARDMILLAN – She has two wins over fences back in late 2014 and early 2015, though he has really struggled over fences the last twice. He unseated his rider at the first fence at Down Royal in January and failed to put that behind him when again coming to grief at the first fence at Newcastle in February (2m 4f, Heavy). He was set a confidence booster on his latest start at Ayr when last of the finishers, though wasn’t beaten far. More needed on balance and a leap of faith is required to back him in this after those two previous chasing runs. Not for us.
2 I’M AN IZZ WIZZ – Ran a great race when headed in the dying strides at Punchestown in January (2m 4f, Soft to Heavy) and ran another brilliant race when fading late on to finish fourth at Down Royal, with the bare result best ignored (3m, Soft). He’ll be much happier back down in trip and a mark of 99 is certainly workable for this lightly raced nine year old who has only raced six times over regulation fences. Conditions are fine and he looks a major player under 7lb claimer Katie O’Farrell. Respected.
3 JAMES – Has been getting back to somewhere near his best the last thrice, finish a good second at Down Royal in January behind a strongly backed favourite (2m, Soft), backing that up when a close fourth at Navan three weeks ago (2m 1f, Heavy). He’s now down to a mark of 98 which he surely can do some damage off of and isn’t one to discount lightly with conditions to suit. He has strong place claims under Andrew Lynch and should be respected, though does look vulnerable for win purposes with his overall record taken into account.
4 HOUSE LIMIT – Finished a good second here back in August off a 1lb lower mark (2m 2f, Good) but has been solidly beaten on two all weather runs this year. Those were likely to be fitness boosters however and shouldn’t be taken too literally, as he should be at peak condition for his return to timber in this. An overall record of four wins from seventy-four doesn’t make for impressive reading, with no wins over fences from nine runs. Looks vulnerable in this and others seem far more likely.
5 PRESENTING JULIO – Has been soundly beaten on his last three runs, with his latest defeat coming at Fairyhouse in January (2m 1f, Soft) on chasing debut, though that was certainly a tough introduction against some useful rivals. He has moved to the Gordon Elliott stable which does make him interesting, but he does need to step up massively on that hurdling debut if he’s to feature in this. Caution is advised but watching the market will be crucial with conditions suitable.
6 WILLOW GRANGE – Nine year old who has run some good races here in the past, but has been bitterly disappointing this season for John Ryan in the main, with his latest eight at Limerick over hurdles last week summing up his season somewhat (3m, Soft). Perhaps he’ll be happier down in trip with better conditions on offer but it takes a leap of faith to fancy him with the evidence of his recent runs. Place contender under 7lb claimer Tommy Brett but would be a surprise winner by recent form.
7 CERCA TROVA – Usually runs her best races here and is starting to look very well treated over these obstacles after running some brilliant races over timber. Her latest form figures in that discipline read 4113 and her hurdling mark is now 93, with her chasing mark at 84. In that respect, she’s very well handicapped and she’s proven in the past that she can jump well over fences at this track, with today’s conditions perfect for her. Jonathan Moore takes the ride and she looks the one to beat with all things considered.
8 MERRION ROW – In no sort of form on any rules run since December 2014 but the first time hood seemed to do the trick when third at Down Royal in January (2m, Soft), his best run for a very long time. He was only four lengths behind James on that occasion and he has been dropped 2lb since that run, which certainly gives him a place chance in this field for P J Rothwell. Danny Mullins takes the ride and he’s not with a chance in this.