Saturday, March 4 - Navan
With a deluge expected over the weekend, the ground at Navan will be heavy, and siding with horses who are known to act on the deep surface will be the order of the day. The 15:20 Handicap Hurdle over 2M 4F will be a puzzle with lots of horses with experience, but with varying degrees of recent form to go on. CAMLANN will be favourite, most probably because of the attractiveness of the name 'Davy Russell' listed as his rider. He is consistent and finished a good third to NICOLE'S MILAN on February 4 on soft ground at Fairyhouse.
However, he will have to ship a big weight on Saturday and his two runs on ground worse than soft have been blowouts. The nod is going to LIKE A DEMON (9/1) coming from a low weight, he will carry a full 23 pounds less than CAMLANN, and will be an attractive each-way price in a tricky contest. His latest run was very poor as he was tailed off in a two-mile contest at Clonmel in soft conditions on February 4. If you can forgive him that, his run beforehand was quite impressive as he finished just two lengths adrift of YAYA FIZZ in Naas in January. The favourite here has also finished in arrears to YAYA FIZZ in the past, and I don't believe that form amounts to a 23 pound swing in the weights. LIKE A DEMON, on a good day, can certainly run into a place here.
The 16:30 Handicap Chase over 2M 1F is also a tricky contest with ALL THE CHIMNEYS set to be all the rage with the highly regarded Jack Kennedy on his back. He is running off a nice low weight and has good form in the book, winning in January and finishing second to DE BENNO on February 16. The third placed horse that day, MAGUIRES GLEN, has gone on to win since, so the race has worked out well enough, and so ALL THE CHIMNEYS will have a lot of supporters at Navan.
However, ONTOPOFTHEWORLD (6/1) catches the eye in this one. He finished just two lengths second to ALL THE CHIMNEYS in a race at the same venue in January whilst carrying a full 21 pounds more. He will carry just nine pounds more than that rival on Saturday and will have acclaimed three-pound claimer Donagh Myler for company. That means an actual difference in weight of just six pounds and I think that swing is enough for ONTOPOFTHEWORLD to reverse the form.
The final selection on Saturday is CANALY (3/1) to get the better of favourite TEXAS JACK in the 17:05 three-mile Handicap Chase. TEXAS JACK slammed Mouse Morris' THUNDER AND ROSES by six lengths in a similar event at Fairyhouse recently, but prior to that, the Noel Meade trained 10-year-old was tailed off or pulled up in his seven previous starts. That is hardly the model of consistency you look for when analysing a three-mile chase in what may well be a swamp in Navan on Sunday. He also carries top weight as a result of his recent resurgence and that should give hope to his rivals.
CANALY will have a seven-pound claimer on board, essentially carrying 23 pounds less than the favourite, and that swing should be enough to see him competitive. He has never been an exceptional animal, but he beat HE ROCKS by four lengths at Punchestown in January, and also ran an exceptional race to be fourth behind SMOKEY JOE JOE over Christmas. That form stacks up well in a race like this, while the ground should not pose any major issues. The other danger, FOLSOM BLUE, is coming off a three-year losing run, but has now dropped back down to his last winning mark.
Sunday, March 5 - Leopardstown
The first race (14:10) at Leopardstown on Sunday is the Foxrock Cup Hurdle over 2M 2F and it plays host to a collection of exciting horses. Willie Mullins brings two possibly brilliant French imports, BONBON AU MIEL and AURKO, and they really could be anything in time. However, they are inexperienced in Ireland and we will tentatively ignore them on this occasion. Their stablemate DIAKALI has exceptional form in the book but has not appeared on the track since 2015 following a serious injury setback, and that is a huge negative.
TYCOON PRINCE is a steady, if not brilliant, animal, but he could still come on under Bryan Cooper, but may find one or two still too good. By process of elimination, we are left with TTEBOB and I SHOT THE SHERIFF (8/1) from the Jessica Harrington and Tony Martin yards respectively. TTEBOB hasn't won since 2015, but has been running recently, unlike many of his rivals here, but has finished well behind SUTTON PLACE on two occasions in the past couple of months. I SHOT THE SHERIFF appeared to be a very exciting prospect when last seen in 2015. He beat TTEBOB by three lengths at Fairyhouse in April of that year, but was then tailed off behind JEZKI at that year's Punchestown festival.
The owner has clearly persisted with him, however, and he will be a bigger price than most of the others who have been absent on Sunday. He may well be 8/1 and has the potential, if showing up fresh, to take advantage of a depleted field. It is an extremely open contest where no result would be surprising, but Tony Martin is better than most at getting a horse ready after a break, and that's why he gets the nod here. The jockey booking of Davy Russell is also a huge positive as the Cork man is a master at wrangling a tune out of a horse. He is a man made for the tough conditions and he may well be able to steer this one home on Sunday.
Henry de Bromhead's IDENTITY THIEF (13/8) is a worthy market leader in the Novice Chase at 15:40 in Leopardstown on Sunday. He unseated in his latest effort on track in a chase and pulled up on the occasion before that, but he did make a good impression on his first two starts over the larger obstacles late last year. He put O'CEALLAIGH, a decent yardstick, to the sword by 14 lengths in his first start over fences last October, and followed up with another victory when he beat ORDINARY WORLD, the horse who finished nine lengths second to the ever impressive MIN over Christmas.
The potential held by IDENTITY THIEF is colossal and he could turn out to be vastly superior to any of these rivals but GREAT FIELD is a hardy adversary. He made a big impression on his chasing debut in January when he put MALL DINI to the sword by seven lengths. He will probably come on for Willie Mullins and that is an exciting thought for a six-year-old chaser arriving from such a powerful yard. DON'T TOUCH IT is another danger for the in-form trainer, Jessica Harrington, but his three-length success over DICOSIMO recently may not be quite up to the standard of the others. The vote is for IDENTITY THIEF to just shade it from GREAT FIELD in a tight run-in.
Navan 15:20 - LIKE A DEMON - EW - 9/1
Navan 16:30 - ONTOPOFTHEWORLD - WIN - 6/1
Navan 17:05 - CANALY - WIN - 3/1
Leopardstown 14:10 - I Shot the Sheriff - WIN - 8/1
Leopardstown 15:40 - IDENTITY THIEF - WIN - 13/8
Suggested Weekend Double:
ONTOPOFTHEWORLD & IDENTITY THIEF