Irish Eyes: Class acts to shine
Irish Eyes previews the meeting at Naas on Saturday and goes for a short-priced double with Solwhit and Aupcharlie.
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Irish punters may know Naas as 'the punters' graveyard' but hope springs eternal and with the help of two top-class performers, we can put that label to bed in style.
Solwhit is a confident nap to start the ball rolling. The Charles Byrnes-trained star takes on five rivals in the Grade Three Limestone Lad Hurdle.
Let's discuss those rivals first. Imperial Shabra is nowhere near good enough to win this and Mahler Tree has more than a stone to find with the best of these. Eyesontheprize is likely to be ridden for third place and some valuable black-type which would be almost as good as a win for a mare.
So now we are only left with two who can threaten Solwhit, namely So Young and Whatuthink. There was only a length and a quarter between them last time out when Whatuthink set an almighty pace over three miles but So Young, who was slightly better off at the weights, mowed him down for third close to the finish.
The same weights apply here so, theoretically at least, there should be little between them again in the race for second.
That brings us to Solwhit, the best horse in the race with an official rating of 154 yet he is receiving weight from all challengers, bar Eyesontheprize.
Solwhit ran an excellent second to the 156-rated Bog Warrior in a conditions hurdle last month on his first run back from an injury-enforced 780-day break. His trainer Charles Byrnes had warned prior to his comeback that he had been unable to take Solwhit away for a gallop and that, as a result, he would come on a lot for the race.
This is the same Solwhit that had previously contested twelve successive Grade One hurdle races prior to his comeback. This is the same Solwhit that won six of those Grade One hurdles and finished second to Hurricane Fly in another four! So it's simple, Solwhit is the best horse in this field by some distance and whilst Whatuthink is likely to set his customary strong pace, Solwhit should take this contest at his ease.
Aupcharlie is the horse to double up with. He takes on some very average opposition in the three-mile Woodlands Park 100 Club Novice Chase.
His main danger is Tofino Bay who was brilliant when winning the Troytown but finished all of 27 lengths behind Aupcharlie in the Topaz Chase at the Leopardstown Christmas festival.
Aupcharlie ran his heart out in that race only be denied by a nose by out-and-out stayer Back In Focus. He pecked and stumbled at the last fence there and probably would have held on for the win, but for that.
He is simply a class above these rivals and it's impossible to see Tofino Bay turning around a 27-length beating.
With the Cheltenham in mind, it will be worth watching the Willie Mullins-trained Un Atout in the Irish Stallions Farms EBF Irish Racing Writers Novice Hurdle. Unbeaten in two starts to date, connections will be disappointed if he can't win this in good style and already have the Festval on their agenda.
Saturday Selections (Naas):
Solwhit (Nap) - 1.35
Aupcharlie (Double) - 3.15