Irish Eyes: King for a day
Our Irish Eyes column previews the action at Navan on Sunday and selects Daneking as the best bet of the day.
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Daneking jumps off the page as the nap of the day at Navan. Three defeats over hurdles, all whilst sporting a hood will be enough to turn plenty of punters off but that is an unfair reflection of his form to date.
The former John Godsen-inmate earned a Flat rating of 88 and ended his time in England with a comfortable defeat of subsequent Ebor winner Tiger Cliff.
A year later he made a belated hurdles debut for Willie Mullins, finishing a good second to The Game Changer at Cork, who is now rated 125 over hurdles.
On his next start he finished third at Leopardstown to Western Boy who has since also franked the form in better company The fourth and sixth-placed horses have also since won and the horse that split them has finished second with numerous other winners emerging from the race.
On his third start, Daneking would have won but for an unfortunate stumble after the last which handed and unlikely victory to Skybet Supreme Novices' Hurdle outsider Waxies Dargle.
Daneking continues to sport a hood, which some punters will see as a negative. He was certainly on and off the bridle on his hurdles debut at Cork and pulled very hard but in fairness, he has looked a lot more professional since November.
He jumped a little to his left on his last start at Fairyhouse a month ago, but a return to a left-handed track today should put that right. The bottom line is that if Daneking runs to the form of any of his three previous starts, he should have enough to cope with danger Blue Bicycle, whose presence here should ensure a decent price about our selection.
The dogs have been barking about Quevega's full-brother Vivega and he finally makes his debut in the concluding bumper today. Quevega is obviously a star but their dam, Vega VI, has produced five individual winners from seven runners so this is no one-horse pedigree.
Furthermore, Sivega, a full sister to Vivega and Quevega won on her debut, as did their half-brother Monvega. Willie Mullins has expressed a doubt about the ground today but Quevega has won two Grade Ones at Punchestown on heavy so whilst he may prove better on good ground, today's conditions should not unduly inconvenience Vivega.
He has been ready to run since before Christmas and is rumoured to have been working the house down for some time now so there are no worries on the fitness front.
Admittedly Mullins could have found an easier opportunity to unveil Vivega but he runs here to find out if he is good enough to head to Cheltenham next month and it will be disappointing if he fails to score.
Annie Oakley gets the each-way vote in the opening Dunsany Handicap Hurdle. Although she won her maiden over two-and-a-half miles, it came as no surprise that she has proven better over further, given that she is by Ascot Gold Cup winner Westerner, out of a mare by St. Leger winner Commanche Run and from the family of Black Humour who was placed in a Hennessy Gold Cup, a Charlie Hall Chase and a Tommy Whittle.
She ran very well on her first run after an 11-month break at Fairyhouse in December when she stayed on strongly under Robbie Power to finish fifth when the race was all over.
She then turned in a dismal performance at Limerick a few weeks later under Mark Bolger. It may have been that she bounced after her extended lay-off or perhaps it was the fact that she proved difficult to settle. She certainly seems to perform best when held up but raced up with the leaders that day.
Whatever the case, Annie Oakley showed that run to be all wrong however when she returned to action at Punchestown last month with Power back in the saddle. She settled much better before coming with a storming run to get up on the line by a head. The fact the Annie Oakley has only been raised five 5lb for that win means she should be involved here again today.
Nap: Daneking, 2.40 Navan.
Next Best: Vivega, 4.50 Navan.
Each-Way: Annie Oakley, 1.40 Navan.