Streets Of Doyen prepares for a trip to the Cheltenham Festival with a first competitive appearance since October at Naas on Sunday.
John McConnell’s charged rattled off a four-timer in the space of a month last autumn, with handicap wins at Roscommon and Gowran Park followed by successive victories in novice company at Cork and Cheltenham.
With a return to the Cotswolds for the Albert Bartlett in less than three weeks’ time on the agenda, Streets Of Doyen first faces a Grade Two assignment in the Paddy Power Betting Shop Novice Hurdle.
McConnell admits this weekend’s two-mile trip will be on the short side for Streets Of Doyen, but expects the race to serve a purpose.
He said: “We were tempted to go straight to Cheltenham as I didn’t want to give him a gruelling race over three miles within six or eight weeks of the Festival.
“This two-mile race came up and it looked like there wasn’t a big entry, so I stuck him in it and we decided we’d run.
“It will certainly put him spot on for Cheltenham. I’m not expecting him to win on Sunday, but it should sharpen up his jumping and wherever he finishes is fine.
“It would be great if he could be competitive, but I’m not too worried about that.”
Streets Of Doyen will be fitted with cheekpieces for the first time, with his trainer keen to learn whether they have the desired effect ahead of the Festival.
McConnell added: “He’s lazy and lairy and if the cheekpieces looked like they helped this weekend, we might consider leaving them on for Cheltenham.
“This is a good way of trying them out, rather than trying first time in Cheltenham and running the risk of them backfiring.
“It will be a good learning exercise.”
Streets Of Doyen’s six rivals include Joseph O’Brien’s Desir Du Large – who has been off the track since winning a Fairyhouse bumper in December 2018 – and the Willie Mullins-trained mare Echoes In Rain.
Mullins saddles the likely favourite for the other graded race on the card, the opening WhatOddsPaddy? Chase.
Cilaos Emery has raced just once since finishing fourth in last year’s Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham, finishing runner-up to popular stablemate Bachasson in the Clonmel Oil Chase in November.
Despite having to concede weight, the nine-year-old will be widely expected to dispatch of his three opponents before potentially returning to Cheltenham for either the Queen Mother Champion Chase or the Ryanair.
Cilaos Emery is taken on by Daly Tiger (Noel Meade), Kildorrey (Ted Walsh) and Cafe Con Leche (Denis Hogan).
The most valuable race of the day is the 40,000 Paddy Power “From The Horse’s Mouth” Podcast Novice Handicap Chase, for which seven runners are set to go to post.
Gordon Elliott has high hopes for Defi Bleu, who makes his handicap debut over fences.
“He has run respectably in a few beginners’ chases this season and should certainly be good enough to win one, but this is a decent pot so I thought it might be worth giving him a go,” Elliott told Betfair.
“He is a horse who stays further, but he should be comfortable at this distance, as he showed when running well in the Martin Pipe at Cheltenham a couple of years ago.
“The form of his last beginners’ chase at Navan reads well enough as he finished eight lengths behind The Big Dog, who won a good handicap next time. That run alone would give him prospects of getting involved.”
Ciaran Murphy’s hat-trick seeker Enjoy D’allen and Meade’s School Boy Hours also feature.
Perhaps the most interesting Elliott-trained runner on the card is Gerri Colombe, who contests the Paddy Power (Pro/Am) INH Flat Race.
A £240,000 purchase after winning his sole start in the Irish point-to-point field, the five-year-old made a big impression when winning by 24 lengths on his bumper debut at Fairyhouse.
Elliott added: “Gerri Colombe is a lovely staying horse for the future. He won his point like a very nice horse last season and he was very good in his bumper at Fairyhouse last month.
“I was hoping he’d go close to winning at Fairyhouse, but I really liked the way he went to the line over the last couple of furlongs and his finishing effort there suggested that he could be quite exciting.
“We won’t see the best of him until he goes jumping, but I’d like to think he is the one to beat here.”
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