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Reputations at stake as Holymacapony takes on elders at Navan

Holymacapony puts his unbeaten record and tall reputation on the line in the BetVictor Make Your Best Bet Novice Hurdle at Navan on Friday.

The winning point-to-pointer could hardly have been more impressive on his hurdling debut for Henry de Bromhead and Rachael Blackmore at Punchestown last month.

The four-year-old, who carries the Monalee and Minella Indo colours of owner Barry Maloney, faces his elders for the first time at Grade Two level.

Henry de Bromhead and Rachael Blackmore are a formidable combination
Henry de Bromhead and Rachael Blackmore are a formidable combination (PA)

De Bromhead said: “He’s in great form. He won his maiden hurdle nicely at Punchestown, so this seemed like the right step forward for him.

“We’ll see where we are after Friday.”

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Champion trainer Willie Mullins has won a race formerly known as the Navan Novice Hurdle on a record seven occasions – and this year relies upon the brilliant Envoi Allen’s half-brother Fighter Allen, who also won at Punchestown last month.

Gordon Elliott has a couple of contenders in Fakiera and Eskylane – while Gavin Cromwell’s Gabynako, Jessica Harrington’s Ashdale Bob and the Noel Meade-trained Lieutenant Command complete the field.

The most valuable race on the card is the 40,000 euro BetVictor Gamble Responsibly Tara Handicap Hurdle, in which King Alex bids to make it four from four this season for owner-trainer Barry Connell.

Connell said: “He’s in good form and has already won around Navan this season. I think he’ll handle the track and the ground, and hopefully he’s the one to beat in the race.

“He has a nice racing weight of 11 stone, so we’ll hope for the best.”

Thereisnodoubt (Shane Crawley), Lord Erskine (Harry Rogers) and It Could Be You (Tom Mullins) are among King Alex’s rivals.

Letsbeclearaboutit winning at Punchestown
Letsbeclearaboutit winning at Punchestown (Niall Carson/PA)

It could be argued that the most intriguing contest of the afternoon is the concluding BetVictor Flash Cashback “Future Champions” Flat Race, which stages a fascinating clash between the hugely exciting pair Letsbeclearaboutit and Sir Gerhard.

Cromwell’s Letsbeclearaboutit has looked every inch a top-class prospect in winning each of his two starts under champion amateur Patrick Mullins, who is again on board.

Elliott’s £400,000 purchase Sir Gerhard is already a best-priced 4-1 favourite for the Champion Bumper at Cheltenham following a 14-length romp on his rules debut at Down Royal under Jamie Codd, who has previously claimed this Listed prize aboard Samcro and Envoi Allen.

Codd said: “Letsbeclearaboutit and Sir Gerhard look like the two leading bumper horses in Ireland this year, so it will be interesting.

“I’m really looking forward to taking him (Letsbeclearaboutit) on. Sir Gerhard is in great form, and I wouldn’t be swapping him at this stage anyway – he’s a lovely horse.

“We’ll know a bit more on Friday.”

Connell eyes Leopardstown’s Paddy Power for Massey’s Wood

Owner turned trainer Barry Connell has the Paddy Power Chase at Leopardstown in mind for the promising Massey’s Wood.

The eight-year-old won in impressive style on his seasonal debut at Down Royal, taking the three-mile Rainbow Communications Handicap Chase on his first run under Connell’s name.

A tilt at the two-mile four-furlong Foxrock Handicap at Navan appears to be next, and Connell hopes a good performance will leave Massey’s Wood eligible for Leopardstown on December 27.

“We’re looking at a race at Navan at the end of the month, the Foxrock Handicap” he said.

“We don’t think he’ll have any trouble dropping back in trip half a mile, because he travelled very strongly in his last race. So that’s the plan with him there, and we’ll probably make an entry for him in the Paddy Power Chase at Leopardstown at Christmas as well.

“If he was to win the race at Navan he’d probably get into the Paddy Power. He’s 100 per cent – the race didn’t take anything out of him, he’s in great form.”

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Also victorious on his first run for Connell was the six-year-old King Alex, who took a maiden hurdle at Ballinrobe in October by a decisive six and a half lengths.

He is engaged in a handicap hurdle at Navan on Sunday and is an intended runner as long as he comes through the balloting process.

“He probably has a chance of getting in, and if he does then that’s where he’ll go,” said Connell.

“I think he’d be suited by a more galloping track like Navan. H’s a big horse, 17 hands, so going round the tight bends at Ballinrobe wouldn’t have been ideal for him.

“Hopefully we’ll get in to Navan, and if we don’t we’ll find something similar.”

Connell also outlined plans for bumper winner Snake Oil, who scored by seven and a half lengths at Listowel in September and has not been seen since.

“Snake Oil is back – we gave him a month off after Listowel,” he added.

“He’s a big horse and he’d been in training through the summer, so we thought we’d give him a little mini-break. The idea was to come back around Christmas time for a maiden hurdle, probably at Leopardstown, and he seems on track for that.”

The Kildare-based trainer had his first runners in July after undergoing a year-long process to obtain his licence, with Keith Clarke overseeing his Nurney yard in the intervening period.

Connell, who was the owner of high-grade horses such as Our Conor before building his own yard, reflected that the time taken to set himself up as a trainer had benefited the younger horses in his stable.

“We have a lot of young horses, and I was waiting about a year to get the licence, so it’s kind of allowed us to give a lot of those horses a bit of extra time,” he said.

“We’re bringing them on nice and steady – the ones that are running are running well.”

All of the former amateur rider’s wins as a trainer so far have taken place behind closed doors because of Covid-19 restrictions.

“Obviously it’d be nice, especially on the big days, like Down Royal last week or Listowel, if we had crowds there,” he said.

“The sooner they come back the better, but at the same time it’s great to be able to continue on racing with these horses – and hopefully we’ll get owners back and start getting crowds back in the new year.”