After not giving her running last time around at Navan, EMCON has been dropped a pound in the handicap and if back to form should be throwing down a very strong bid for W J Austin. Before that underwhelming run at Navan on her latest start, she had finished second twice over fences, finishing a game second at Fairyhouse in December before once again coming home too late to finish second at Leopardstown last month. Her chasing mark is only 2lb above her mark over timber so she’s almost certainly capable of better over these obstacles and the better ground conditions should help eek out some further progress for this eight year old. She’s taken to dust herself off after that last run and get back to form in a big way to record her second chasing success.
Joseph O’Brien will be saddling Slowmotion and this five-year-old mare is certainly one to pay close attention to with form figures of 1121 since going over fences. She took her second chasing win from as many chasing starts at a listed race at Naas in February with a smart looking performance before perhaps being disappointing when beaten by Daisy’s Gift at Limerick in March when upped to Grade 2 company. She atoned for that though with a good Grade 3 victory at Fairyhouse in April, jumping well and keeping on strongly for a third chasing win from four. She starts in handicaps off a mark of 138 which she is likely to be able to do some damage off of in time as she is only rated one pound lower over timber. She remains unexposed and has conditions to suit, so should be on the premises and has to be respected for top connections.
With only four Irish runs, Retour En France remains an interesting proposition for Willie Mullins with the suspicion that she can still do better yet. She has one win over fences from three starts, sent off 4/5 for a beginners’ chase at Fairyhouse where her main rival fell at the last, although she did look to have that rival’s measure at the time. On her latest start at Navan when upped to three miles she seemingly did not stay the trip in the heavy conditions when well beaten in fifth, so she should appreciate today’s distance. There has to be a question mark surrounding the ground as she has never raced with any type of ‘good’ in the description. Nevertheless, she remains unexposed and has Ruby Walsh taking the ride.
The switch to fences has clearly worked wonders for Elusive Ivy who has produced three solid efforts after a poor chasing debut at Navan in December where she was under pressure when falling at the last. She left that well behind though when second at Naas in January, beaten two lengths by Slowmotion who she was giving six pounds too that day. Slowmotion is having to give her seven this time around. That form stands out as it brings her firmly into the reckoning with one of the fancied players. Her latest third at Fairyhouse was another good effort as the winner was given his own way out in front. She has only been raised a pound for that run and this step up in trip could bring about further improvement from the seven-year-old mare who has won at two miles four furlongs in the past for Gavin Cromwell. She is entitled to be involved and has good chances here.
It is very hard to rule out the highly consistent Goulane Davina who has not finished outside the top three for seven runs, but there has to be speculation that she will just fall short again for Seamus Spillane. She took her first chasing win at the third attempt when rallying gamely to get back up towards the line, though she had 14 lengths to make up with Slowmotion on their latest meeting at Limerick in March. She was giving that rival three pounds on that occasion and she will be receiving nine pounds this time which is a big turnaround in the weights as she makes her handicap debut over fences. Perhaps Slowmotion just has the talent edge on her and may be able to improve away, but she should give it another good go for connections and would not be amiss in the placings.
Finishing a close second behind Vroum Vroum Mag in the 2016 Mares’ Hurdle at the Festival, Rock On The Moor is undoubtedly a smart mare, but she is yet to really get her act together over fences for the Harrington yard. She made her chasing debut at Clonmel when some early mistakes perhaps hindered her and she was just unable to get to the eventual winner in a close third. She did not, however, build on that run when well beaten at Warwick in a listed race and although she may find this slightly easier, she weakened quite tamely after the 13th fence. She stayed this distance over hurdles so that is not the issue and perhaps going into handicaps will help her, as a mark of 137 is not harsh based on her hurdling form. She should be competitive if at her best and has place claims at the very least.