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Irish racegoers can warm up for the mammoth Cheltenham Festival with quality action at Naas Racecourse this Sunday where the feature race is the €100,000 Bar One Racing Leinster National.
Jessica Harrington’s English Grand National entry Lifetime Ambition heads the weights for the valuable prize which today saw 20 entries stand their ground.
The Leinster National has been a happy hunting ground for Noel Meade in recent years as Diol Ker justified favouritism last year to give the trainer a second win in three years after Cap York triumphed in 2020.
Meade could be represented by Farceur Du Large this time, while Henry de Bromhead’s Galway Blazer’s winner Gabbys Cross is also in mix.
Owner/Trainer Barry Connell is excited by his Cheltenham Festival prospects and could head to the Cotswolds with a spring in his step if Espanito Bello could claim the €100,000 Bar One Racing Leinster National on the eve of the Festival week.
Gordon Elliott is well accustomed to snaring plenty of Ireland’s major prizes but the Leinster National at Naas remains absent from his CV so far. The Cullentra conditioner may boast a strong team for this year’s renewal with Defi Bleu, Milan Native and Fakiera left in at today’s forfeit stage.
Champion trainer Willie Mullins relies on the lightly weighted Aione, while Stuart Crawford has a very interesting contender in Gold Cup Bailly.
Grade 2 winner Darrens Hope has been the horse of a lifetime for her County Waterford trainer Robert Murphy and Murphy is eyeing a return to Naas this weekend with the 9-year-old who was third in the race last year.
“She’s in great form and really coming back to herself,” Murphy said on Tuesday. “We’ll be playing it by ear a bit because she’ll need rain but the forecast is for rain towards the weekend so hopefully we can run. We’ll be doing a rain dance!
“Naas suits her I think and she was third in the race last year so she deserves another crack at it. She would have a lovely racing weight on Sunday so if everything goes right between now and then we hope to run.”
Thedevilscoachman is the highest rated in the Grade 3 Bar One Racing ‘Extra Places At Cheltenham’ Directors Plate Novice Chase and features among some strong entries. Exciting novices Dinoblue and Saldier may represent Willie Mullins while course and distance winner Limerick Lace is an intriguing entry for Gavin Cromwell. Journey With Me was a Grade 3 runner-up last time out and previously won at Naas so warrants plenty of respect if lining up.
Earlier on the card the Grade 3 Bar One Racing ‘Guaranteed Overnight Prices’ Kingsfurze Novice Hurdle may provide strong pointers to some big races at the spring festivals. Gordon Elliott’s dual Grade 1 runner-up Irish Point is a notable entry having been second in the Grade 1 Lawlor’s of Naas Novice Hurdle earlier this year, while Lily Du Berlais is again likely to take on strong company on just her second start over hurdles for trainer Stuart Crawford.
John McDonnell Communications Manager Bar One Racing said: “We’re looking forward to what should be a competitive renewal of the Bar One Racing Leinster National. It has the usual mix of seasoned handicappers and unexposed horses. Espanito Bello and Gabbys Cross are course winners that will be on many shortlists.
“The supporting card has a strong look to it. The Graded Novice Chase and Hurdle will hopefully see Journey With Me and Irish Point.
“Leinster National Day is always an enjoyable day’s racing as people anticipate the start of Cheltenham, and we look forward to what is the biggest betting week for our business. A high-profile sponsorship at this time of year brings us front of mind with punters, and we’ll be looking to activate lots of new accounts before next Tuesday.”
Further details can be found on naasracecourse.com