IN SUMMARY: Desoto County was arguably unlucky not to win the Coral.ie Hurdle at Leopardstown in January and is sure to be a popular choice here, on only his third start for Gordon Elliott. However, preference is for CLONDAW WARRIOR (6/1), who was placed at the 2015 Puchestown festival on his latest start over hurdles and subsequently enjoyed a lucrative spell on the Flat, which included a Royal Ascot success and a highly commendable second in the Doncaster Cup . Anibale Fly didn’t really have the race run to suit when fourth on his handicap debut and is another one that deserves serious consideration. At bigger prices, Western Boy may provide some value.
1 Ted Veale – Absent since below-par run over 2m6f in October and remains on career-high mark but has often performed well in hot handicaps, both on the Flat and over hurdles, and will be in the thick of things if matching the form of last summer’s third in the Galway Plate.
2 Anibale Fly – Lightly raced 6yo who ran with credit when third of five in Grade 1 novice event at Naas (2m4f, heavy) in January and probably didn’t enjoy the run of the race when a staying-on fourth on last month’s handicap debut at Leopardstown (2m, soft); has more to offer.
3 Modem – Began 2015 with second in hot handicap hurdle at Leopardstown (2m, soft) and went on to win four times last year (twice on the Flat, twice over hurdles); finished rather weakly at Downpatrick recently, though, and current mark demands a career-best performance.
4 Art Of Payroll – Without a win for over two years but hasn’t had a huge amount of racing in that time and suggested he might be returning to form when fourth at Leopardstown (2m, heavy) last month; will probably be better suited by today’s ground and could have a say.
5 Clondaw Warrior – 0-11 over hurdles since winning debut in this sphere in 2012 but has been placed in some hot handicaps; enjoyed excellent season on the Flat in 2015, landing two valuable prizes before going close in Group 2 Doncaster Cup, and it will be very interesting to see how much of his improvement can be transferred back to this game.
6 The Plan Man – Ran some good races in defeat last year but has been soundly beaten on last couple of outings; today’s less-testing ground is in his favour but Gigginstown’s retained jockey, Bryan Cooper, rides for another owner in this.
7 Desoto County – Scored at Thurles (2m, soft to heavy) on stable debut in December and didn’t get the best of runs when third in the Coral.ie Hurdle at Leopardstown (2m, soft) the following month; still has fairly low mileage and is a must for the shortlist.
8 Princely Conn – Displayed considerable promise as a novice last season and was sent of favourite for the 2015 County Hurdle; however, seems to have lost his way this winter and has lots to prove after a couple of heavy defeats (2m4f/2m).
9 Western Boy – Pulled up on latest start over hurdles in August but was placed in two valuable Flat handicaps in the autumn and has dipped to workable mark in this sphere if fully revved up after 170-day layoff; overlooked by Barry Geraghty but not ruled out.
10 Whatsforuwontgobyu – Appeared to have quite a bit left in the tank when scoring at Leopardstown (2m, heavy) just after Christmas but had to settle for eighth off 10lb higher mark back there a few weeks later; further progress required to win this.
11 Riviera Sun – Absent since a very disappointing favourite in a handicap at last summer’s Galway festival but won three times in novice company last year and is not yet fully exposed; others have more pressing claims today, though.
12 Mick Thonic – Won over hurdles in France in 2013 and improved upon encouraging reappearance/stable debut when going close in C&D handicap on New Year’s Day; this race is much stronger but he could easily have more in the locker.
13 Officieux – Began 2015 with impressive C&D maiden win but has generally been disappointing since then and was soundly beaten in a Leopardstown handicap last month; may yet get career back on track but big leap of faith required to support him for this.
14 Ordinary World – Opened account over hurdles at second attempt, in Tipperary maiden (2m, good to yielding) in October; all three subsequent handicap runs have been perfectly respectable but jolt of improvement required to win a race this competitive.
15 Lilshane – Refused to race at Naas last month, which is a concern, but took his form to a new level with convincing success at Navan (2m, soft to heavy) a couple of weeks ago; 7lb higher in a better race here but evidently at the top of his game.
myracing Forecast Prices: 3/1 Desoto County, 4/1 Anibale Fly, Clondaw Warrior, 10/1 Mick Thomic, Lilshane, 14/1 Ted Veale, 16/1 Modem, Art Of Payroll, Western Boy, Whatsforuwontgobyu, 20/1 Riviera Sun, Ordinary World, 33/1 The Plan Man, Princely Conn, Officieux