Get quotes from connections and a horse-by-horse guide to Sunday's Naas Racecourse Business Club Novice Chase.
Preview & trainer quotes
Cheltenham Festival heroes Blow By Blow and Champagne Classic give Gordon Elliott a strong hand in the Naas Racecourse Business Club Novice Chase on Sunday.
Blow By Blow won the Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys' Hurdle at Prestbury Park in March, and made a smart debut over fences at Galway in October.
He has since kept good company at graded level, most recently when third behind Delta Work at Leopardstown last month.
Elliott said: "Blow By Blow ran well in a Grade One over this trip at Christmas, and the form he showed there would entitle him to run well here."
It is almost two years since Champagne Classic won the same Festival prize, and he has not been seen since following up at Punchestown a month later - when his victims included Penhill, Monalee, Al Boum Photo and Presenting Percy.
Elliott added: "Champagne Classic has been off a long time, and it's a big ask to start him off at this level. But it's getting late in the season, and if he does break his novice status we'd like it to be in a decent race.
"He's been ready to run for a while, but we've just had to be patient with him.
"Naas looks a good starting point."
Chris's Dream is an interesting contender for Henry de Bromhead, after winning on his fencing bow at Navan.
"He's in good form, and we've been looking forward to moving him up in grade since he won at Navan last month," said De Bromhead.
"He produced a nice performance there and he should enjoy moving up in trip, because he won a novice hurdle in good style over three miles last season.
"He's very well in himself, and we are looking forward to Naas on Sunday."
Paul Nolan runs Drinmore Novice Chase fifth Discorama, while champion trainer Willie Mullins relies on Ballyward.
Leading owner JP McManus is doubly represented, with Shady Operator and Majurca both sent into battle by Joseph O'Brien.
Frank Berry, the owner's racing manager, said of the former: "He struggled a bit at Punchestown last time and was lucky enough to win on the day.
"He needs to sharpen up his jumping a bit, which hopefully he will."
Fast-tracked to fences having been a point winner who showed a high level of form in a four-race career over hurdles. First try at this discipline saw him beaten a short head by Sharp Operator in a strong Punchestown contest over Christmas, at a time when many from the yard were badly in need of the run. Sure to have improved for the experience, then, and looks a big player with Saturday's forecast rain in his favour.
Blow By Blow
Last year's Martin Pipe winner who has been tried in Grade One company on the most recent two of his four starts over fences. Last time was more like it, but an 18-length third to stablemate Delta Work confirmed that he's just shy of the top grade while suggesting he may want further than three miles already. Similar conditions here would be a concern but rain looks set to arrive and he should run a decent race - perhaps without winning.
Fascinating runner on the back of a near two-year absence, having won the Grade One staying novices' hurdle at Punchestown when last seen. That victory came at the expense of subsequent Stayers' winner Penhill, with Presenting Percy, Monalee and Al Boum Photo among those in behind, and he's therefore an exciting recruit to this division. Jack Kennedy rides having been on board Blow Blow Blow last time and it'll be interesting to see how the market speaks of a horse with big potential.
Behind Ballyward at the Cheltenham Festival but made a taking start over fences when winning at Navan in December. With Shady Operator well held, on that form he's got the beating of both him and Ballyward and while it's more complicated than that, he's sure to appreciate this step up to three miles. Long been highly regarded and this will tell us much more.
Shock winner of a maiden hurdle in 2017, beating Blow By Blow having been sent off at odds of 66/1, but that horse gained revenge at the Cheltenham Festival the following year. On that and other pieces of form, he's held by a few of these and there's a slight doubt about the trip, too.
Last Man Standing
Behind Chris's Dream at Navan and probably not quite up to this level.
Modest fourth in the Grade One won by Delta Work over Christmas, albeit not all that far behind Blow By Blow. Had previously looked good under similar conditions at Thurles and could outrun his odds.
Another Gigginstown runner who returns from a lengthy absence, having last been seen trailing home fifth of sixth behind Monalee two years ago. Hard to fancy on even the very best of his form, despite representing a yard with an exceptional record in this race.
Beaten favourite on first try over fences behind Chris's Dream, but improved markedly for that run and a step up to three miles and a furlong when holding off Ballyward at Punchestown. Perhaps needs to improve again but that's exactly what he's done throughout his embryonic career and, just a six-year-old, chances are there's much more to come. Fascinating to see how he goes against reopposing rivals but they might be better suited by any worsening of the ground.
Beaten in races won by Chris's Dream and Shady Operator, and fell in the race won by Moonshine Bay in between. Supporting role at best, then.
Looked headstrong on debut for this yard at Limerick, when sent straight into Grade One company (28/1) on his first Irish start only to fall when still in rear three from home. Previous French form difficult to get a firm handle on but chances are a warm race like this will prove beyond him at this stage.
Several converging formlines only serve to make this a seriously complicated race to assess, and that's before trying to set expectations for the returning Champagne Classic.
He's a fascinating one, but without the market to guide us it might pay to stick with form over fences and give the vote to Ballyward. He has just a short-head to find with Shady Operator but looks sure to improve a bundle for that experience, with Sunday's conditions perhaps more in his favour.
Chris's Dream is certainly respected having had the race won from a long way out at Navan. He's going to be suited by a step up to three miles and could well emerge as the chief threat, but don't be surprised if a strong-in-the-market Champagne Classic trumps them all.
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