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Mooneista poised for Naas with Commonwealth Cup aspirations

Mooneista will test her Royal Ascot credentials as she lines up in Sunday’s Goffs Lacken Stakes at Naas.

The three-year-old secured a first Listed success when taking on older horses in the Woodlands Stakes over the minimum trip at the track last month and she will now switch back up to six furlongs in Group Three company.

Trainer Jack Davison is eager to see how his charge, who is owned and bred by his parents, fares – with a crack at Group One competition in next month’s Commonwealth Cup a possibility.

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He said: “I’m actually working back from the Commonwealth Cup since the Woodlands Stakes. I decided that if we were to consider going for a Group One at Royal Ascot, we needed to up our game a bit, so from Listed into Group company is a good progression. That is the thought process behind it and going for the Lacken Stakes on Sunday.

“She did it nicely (in the Woodlands), but it was a story you couldn’t have written to be honest.

“Between my parents owning Mooneista’s dam, Moon Unit, and breeding Mooneista from her, and then Dandy Man, who is Mooneista’s sire, being second to Moon Unit in the Woodlands Stakes. And of course my parents bred the trainer as well!

“Mooneista continues to be progressive. I think we have to see the best of her, but I prefer to let the horse do the talking. She goes to Naas pending a bit of work, but she has been in flying form since winning and couldn’t be better.”

The Lacken Stakes is one of the highlights on the track’s Royal Ascot Trials Day and the prize has drawn 18 entries, including A Case Of You, Laws Of Indices and another course-and-distance winner in Pale Iris.

Aidan O’Brien could field impressive Naas scorer Contarelli Chapel in the Group Three Coolmore Stud Irish EBF Fillies Sprint Stakes, with Freedom Of Speech a possible for the Guineas-winning connections of Jim and Jackie Bolger after her win at the track last Saturday.

O’Brien could also hold the key to the Coolmore Stud Calyx Race as cosy Dundalk winner Cadamosto features among 11 contenders.

The Sole Power Sprint Stakes includes a host of familiar names headed by Make A Challenge, Urban Beat, Indigo Balance and Harry’s Bar, while 21 are in contention for the Owenstown Stud Stakes over seven furlongs, with Harpocrates, Lunar Space and Darwell Lion taking the eye.

Nothing hidden about Insinuendo’s class

Insinuendo swooped late to secure Group Three honours in the Irish Stallion Farms EBF Blue Wind Stakes at Naas.

Willie McCreery’s four-year-old was conceding weight to all but Thunder Kiss, but it was the two older fillies who fought out a thrilling finish.

Insinuendo (15-2) was settled in the pack early on by Declan McDonogh as outsider Dearg Jazz set off in front, building up a handy five-length advantage at halfway before the field started to close in on the turn for home.

Dearg Jazz quickly dropped away with Thunder Kiss making her bid for glory, but McDonogh had timed his challenge to perfection, with Insinuendo edging in front in the shadow of the post to win by half a length .

Willow was sent off the 11-4 joint-favourite and kept on for third, but fellow market leader Sacred Rhyme disappointed, dropping right out in the straight to finish last of the seven runners.

Insinuendo was having just her third career start having won a maiden on her debut at three and finished third on her seasonal bow at Tipperary last month.

McCreery said: “I have to thank (owner) Michael Deegan as I wanted to run her on Wednesday in Gowran, but he thought this might cut up and Group Three placing would be better than Listed.

“Michael is a good owner to have and a ballsy owner, which is what you want. He said no harm done if things don’t work out.

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“She ran a cracking race in Tipperary over a distance shorter than she needed, but I ran her there to get more experience.

“I was worried that she might not settle, but there was plenty of pace on which suited.

“Declan said she loved that ground and she fought hard. The plan was to get her black type and we have that now.

“She’s a big, tall filly and I wanted to take my time with her.”

King Of Bavaria (7-1) emerged as a possible Royal Ascot contender when making a victorious debut in the Irish Stallion Farms EBF Maiden.

The No Nay Never colt was to the fore throughout, taking the lead with a furlong to run under Wayne Lordan to beat Silver Surfer by three-quarters of a length with 10-11 favourite Celtic Times only third.

Aidan O’Brien’s charge is a 12-1 shot with Paddy Power for next month’s Coventry Stakes.

Lordan said: “He jumped a tad slow but got into stride quick and showed plenty of pace.

“He showed a little bit of greenness in the last furlong, but I thought he got to the line well.

“He’s a nice big colt.”

Freedom Of Speech is set for a step up in class after striking gold at the third time of asking in the Irish Stallion Farms EBF Race.

Representing the 2000 Guineas-winning team of Jim Bolger and Kevin Manning, the 9-2 chance kept on gamely at the finish to beat newcomer Lopes Gold by three-quarters of a length.

Bolger was represented by his daughter Una Manning, who said: “She handled the ground well and the bit of experience probably helped. I thought she was very courageous as she didn’t have it all her own way and battled back well.

“The plan now would be to move her up to Listed company and she’ll want a step up in trip as well.

“She’s very much a filly for next year.”

The Joe Murphy-trained Pale Irish claimed her second victory of the week in the 40,000 euro Irish Racing Writers Handicap.

Turning out just five days after scoring at the Curragh, the 3-1 shot followed up under Gary Carroll – beating 11-4 favourite Notoriously Risky by three-quarters of a length.

Murphy said: “Gary said she quickened twice and got him out of trouble. We’ll make an entry for her in the Jersey Stakes at Royal Ascot.

“She took the race really well at the Curragh and was squealing at home the day after.

“I was impressed with her today. She’s class and is as good as I’ve ever had. It takes a good horse to quicken twice over six at Naas.”

Harrington double-handed in hunt for Blue Wind prize

Jessica Harrington fires a twin assault in her bid for back-to-back victories in the Irish Stallion Farms EBF Blue Wind Stakes at Naas.

The Moone-based trainer saddled One Voice to land a rescheduled running of the Group Three contest at Leopardstown last season and is this year represented by Silence Please and Sacred Rhyme.

Silence Please sets the standard, having touched off aforementioned stablemate One Voice in the Listed Salsabil Stakes at Navan last summer, before going on to run with credit at Pattern level.

With just three runs under her belt, Sacred Rhyme is far less exposed and there was plenty to like about her comeback third in this season’s Salsabil Stakes a fortnight ago.

Harrington said: “I’m looking forward to the Blue Wind Stakes. Shane Foley rides Silence Please with Tom Madden on Sacred Rhyme and I’m hoping for a big run from both of them.

“Silence Please had a good year last year, finishing off with a second-placed finish in a mile-and-a-half Group Three at Leopardstown, having been fourth in the German Oaks.

“This is her first run of the season and we are looking forward to another good year, but you have to get started.

“I also have Sacred Rhyme in there. She ran very, very well in the Salsabil at Navan, when she finished third. She’s a lovely filly with some big entries and you’d be hoping she improves for that outing.”

Aidan O’Brien is also double-handed in Saturday’s feature, with High Heels and Willow declared.

Insinuendo (Willie McCreery), Thunder Kiss (Ger Lyons), Dearg Jazz (James Barrett) and Emaniya (Dermot Weld) are the other hopefuls.

Contarelli Chapel powers to impressive victory at Naas

Contarelli Chapel looked an exciting prospect when making a winning debut in the Irish Stallion Farms EBF Fillies Maiden at Naas.

The Aidan O’Brien-trained daughter of Caravaggio showed a very impressive turn of foot in the final furlong to stamp her authority on the six-furlong contest – and the Ballydoyle trainer was quick to identify her as a Royal Ascot type.

When Ryan Moore asked her to quicken, greenness caused her to drift towards the rail but she was soon back on an even keel.

The 6-4 favourite powered away to win by five and a half lengths from Juncture, who made pleasing late progress to claim second place. Freedom Of Speech was a neck away in third.

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O’Brien said: “She was never let off the bridle at home and we knew that she would be very green when he did drop her, but she was very impressive.

“I would imagine she is an Albany-type filly. She might come back here (on May 16) before that.”

Jack Davison celebrated the biggest success of his career to date when Mooneista (17-2) powered up the rail to win the Anglesey Lodge Equine Hospital Woodlands Stakes.

Beaten in a handicap last time out, Wayne Lordan’s mount took full advantage of her age and sex allowance to beat Harry’s Bar by three-quarters of a length.

She was certainly bred to win the race, though, as Davison explained.

“Her dam (Moon Unit) beat her daddy (Dandy Man) in this race and they have now produced the winner,” he said.

“I’ve always thought a lot of this filly – she’s electric. She’s unbelievably determined and resolute, a great mind and a great appetite for it.

“We’ll think big and she’s in the Commonwealth Cup – we’re going to go that route.

“That’s the biggest win of my career and with a home-bred so it’s a big one. Hopefully we’ll get a few more of that calibre.

“It’s a shame my parents can’t be here, but we’ll do some celebrating tonight.”

Make A Challenge primed for Woodlands mission

Make A Challenge will bid to provide trainer Denis Hogan with back-to-back victories in the Anglesey Lodge Equine Hospital Woodlands Stakes at Naas on Monday.

The County Tipperary handler landed the Listed prize with the top-class Sceptical 12 months ago, who went on to finish third in the Diamond Jubilee at Royal Ascot and runner-up in the July Cup at Newmarket before suffering a fatal injury.

Make A Challenge counts five Listed triumphs among his 10 career victories and made a promising start to the new campaign when third behind the reopposing Laugh A Minute at Cork three weeks ago.

Hogan said: “He had a good prep run in Cork and dropping back to five furlongs from six will be good for him.

“He has actually only run in Naas once, winning the Sole Power Stakes on his first run back last year on good to yielding ground, so five furlongs up in Naas is probably ideal for him. Any bit of rain would be appreciated.

“I suppose there’s a few young guns coming along to take him on now, but he’s in good nick.”

Ado McGuinness saddles both Laugh A Minute and Harry’s Bar.

Laugh A Minute was ultimately a decisive winner at Cork, while Harry’s Bar makes his first start on turf since moving from James Fanshawe’s yard last autumn.

“I’m very happy with both horses,” said McGuinness.

“Laugh A Minute was impressive in Cork and I’m just hoping he can keep that form. I see no reason why he can’t and even go forward.

“At the five mark in Cork, he had them all well stuffed as well. I’m not saying he’s an out-and-out five-furlong horse, but it’s a stiff five in Naas which will be a big help to him.

“Harry’s Bar just got caught wide in Lingfield last time and then the other horse pushed him wider. He lost three or four lengths and to me he was the best horse in the race.

“The big question is will he go on the grass. I think he will. We have Royal Ascot as the target for him in the longer term, but what race we’ll go for there, I don’t know.”

Johnny Murtagh’s Urban Beat and Aidan O’Brien’s pair of Chief Little Hawk and Swiss Ace also feature in an 11-strong field.

Classy Broome headlines Aidan O’Brien treble at Naas

Broome put a barren spell behind him as he swept to victory in the Plusvital Devoy Stakes at Naas.

The son of Australia was a very smart three-year-old, winning two Group Three contests at Leopardstown and finishing a close fourth in the Epsom Derby in 2019.

Things had not gone right for him after that and he had been confined to just two starts since he was sixth in the Irish Derby that summer.

However, the Aidan O’Brien-trained five-year-old put his troubles behind him when dropped in class to Listed company and in distance to a mile and a quarter.

Seamie Heffernan had the 7-2 chance in the perfect position on the heels of the pace-setting Sunchart, with very few getting into it as Broome kicked on over a furlong out, scoring by three and a half lengths from the front-runner.

Sonnyboyliston was six lengths away in third place, and a return to a higher level now beckons for Broome.

O’Brien said: “You’d be very happy with him. Last year we couldn’t get him right all season, but everything has gone really well with him through the winter and into the spring this year.

Aidan O'Brien gets a debrief from Seamie Heffernan after the victory of Broome
Aidan O’Brien gets a debrief from Seamie Heffernan after the victory of Broome (Brian Lawless/PA)

“He’s very versatile, from a mile and a quarter to a mile and a half. He might come back for the Group Three Alleged Stakes.

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“He’s a beautiful mover. You could see he was getting stuck in the ground a little bit, but it didn’t stop him.

“He’s very good form and wasn’t beaten far in the Derby. He’s a very solid horse.

“Hopefully we can look at races like the Tattersalls Gold Cup, Coronation Cup and Ascot with him.”

Tenebrism looks a smart prospect
Tenebrism looks a smart prospect (Brian Lawless/PA)

O’Brien and Heffernan were completing a double after Tenebrism made a taking debut in the Irish Stallion Farms EBF Maiden.

Coming from the pace, the 7-2 favourite was well on top at the line, having three and three-quarter lengths from Gaire Os Ard.

The daughter of Caravaggio was the Ballydoyle handler’s first two-year-old runner of the campaign.

O’Brien said: “She was always very natural from day one and she’s able to quicken up very well, which is what the dad was able to do. You would have to be very happy with her. It’s her first day away.

“She’s smart and we can look at all those quick races for her.”

Empress Josephine lived up to her breeding
Empress Josephine lived up to her breeding (Brian Lawless/PA)

Empress Josephine (3-1) gave O’Brien and Heffernan an 80-1 treble when living up to her breeding with a smooth success on her belated debut in the Irish Stallion Farms EBF Fillies Maiden.

A full-sister to seven-times Group One winner Minding, she looks to have a big future of her own judged on her highly-promising performance.

She stayed on strongly to score by a length and a quarter from New York Angel, with Group Three-placed Ahandfulofsummers half a length back in third.

O’Brien said: “She’s a sister to Minding and you’d be delighted with her. That was a lovely start for her and she’ll stay further.

“Minding was unusual in that she went from a mile to a mile and a quarter to a mile and a half and then back to a mile.

“Seamus was very happy with her. We didn’t get her out last year. It was a bit of a mess with a few of them stopping and starting and she was one of them.

“She’ll have an option now of going to Leopardstown for a Guineas trial or waiting a bit longer.”

Epona Plays claimed Group Three honours
Epona Plays claimed Group Three honours (Brian Lawless/PA)

Epona Plays gave weight all round to register a second Group Three success in the Lodge Park Stud Irish EBF Park Express Stakes.

The Willie McCreery-trained filly overcame the testing conditions to add this contest to her one at the same level at Gowran Park in September.

Wayne Lordan had Epona Plays (12-1) in second place as Parent’s Prayer attempted to make all the running.

Archie Watson’s British raider stuck to her task, but she was worn down in the final furlong by Epona Plays, who pulled clear, despite her welter burden, to score by a length and three-quarters.

McCreery said: “I’m delighted to give Wayne a Group Three winner and we go back a long way. He always rides to instructions.

“I thought today they were not coming from off the pace. The main thing with this filly is not to miss the break as she rears in the stalls, but she jumped out smart today.

“She’s a tough, honest filly and is owned by a lovely man in Renzo Forni from Italy. He loves his racing and would love to be here. He bred her and this is the third daughter from the mare to get black type for him.

“She’ll be entered in the Group Two Ridgewood Pearl Stakes at the Curragh.”

Parent’s Prayer travels in hope again

Parent’s Prayer bids to continue her lucrative visits to Ireland when she travels over again for the Lodge Park Stud Irish EBF Park Express Stakes at Naas.

The Archie Watson-trained filly makes her third successive trip across the Irish Sea from Upper Lambourn, having taken a Listed race and finished third in a Group Three contest.

It is at the higher level she competes again on Sunday as she begins a four-year-old campaign which Watson is hoping could be profitable.

“She won a Listed race nicely there at the back end last year. She showed she went well on heavy ground,” he said.

“I’m not sure how wet it’s been there – in terms of if it’s going to be wet, heavy or gluey and tacky – but it looks a very open race, and hopefully a good opportunity for her to win a Group race.

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“There’s a good programme throughout the year for these four-year-old-plus, mile-to-10-furlong fillies. Hopefully it can be a nice starting point. She’s wintered very well. I’m been very happy with her home work, and she’s ready to go.”

Her rivals are headed by the Willie McCreery-trained Epona Plays, who landed a Group Three prize at Gowran in September.

Of the three-year-olds in the eight-runner field, Dermot Weld’s Eylara is a promising type – with a win and a second from her two starts, both in maiden company – while the Paddy Twomey-trained Fantasy Lady took a Listed contest at the Curragh on the last of her three outings as a juvenile.

Ado McGuinness has a couple of concerns about Salstonstall in the Listed Plusvital Devoy Stakes.

The seven-year-old has a 3lb penalty for winning at this level over a mile on this course in November, and the County Lusk trainer is also worried about the extra two furlongs Salstonsall has to run this time.

However, the Pivotal gelding did not fare too badly over a longer trip last time when fourth to True Self in a very valuable race in Saudi Arabia.

McGuinness reports his charge to have taken his travels well.

“He’s great. He’s travelled well really well and he’s in very good form,” he said.

“He has a penalty to carry, so he has it all to do on Sunday. He has to improve again. He’s up against good horses and has to give them weight, because of the penalty he has for winning his Listed race last year.

“He’ll like the ground, but the trip is a little concern. I think he’s better over a mile in those conditions. We’ll be playing our cards late with him.”

King Of Comedy has his first run for Jessica Harrington, having left John Gosden’s stable.

The five-year-old entire has some very smart form, notably when runner-up to Circus Maximus in the St James’s Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot in 2019.

Aidan O’Brien saddles Broome – who was a close fourth in the 2019 Derby behind stablemate Anthony Van Dyck – while his son Joseph has Numerian, a Listed winner and Group placed, among the 12 runners.

Scoir Mear leads home McManus one-two-three in Leinster National

Scoir Mear led home a one-two-three for JP McManus in the Baroneracing.com Leinster National at Naas.

The leading owner fielded six of the 14 runners in the €80,000 feature and was ultimately well rewarded.

The Tom Mullins-trained Scoir Mear was a 17-2 chance in the hands of 5lb claimer Simon Torrens and dug deep after the final fence to see off 7-2 favourite Ten Ten by two lengths. Fitzhenry rounded off the McManus trifecta in third.

Mullins, who also saddled the fifth home Chavi Artist, said of the winner: “He’s been consistent all year. He’s a horse that needs a bit of light and I said to Simon to go wide and keep him happy. He said he loved it and jumped from fence to fence.

“We’ll see what JP and Frank (Berry, owner’s racing manager) want to do – maybe he could go for the Irish National. I’m happy enough with today anyway.”

He added: “Chavi Artist was jumping so high at some of them that he couldn’t finish out. He went really high at the fourth-last and went down on his nose.

“I felt that was the end of him, but he came back into the race so he must have run a cracker.

“I’ll have to teach him to stay out of the clouds!”

Conflated picks up Grade Three honours at Naas

Conflated made the most of having his sights lowered with a wide-margin victory in the Bar One Racing Directors Plate Novice Chase at Naas.

Placed behind the high-class pair of Darver Star and Asterion Forlonge on his first two starts over fences, the Gigginstown House Stud-owned gelding made it third time lucky at Navan in December.

He was no match for star novice Monkfish over three miles at Leopardstown’s Christmas meeting, but faced with three rivals on his first start since in this Grade Three contest, the seven-year-old was the 4-9 favourite under Jack Kennedy.

The lead changed hands on several occasions during the two-and-a-half-mile journey, but Conflated’s superior class told from the home turn and he passed the post with 21 lengths in hand over Waitnsee.

Winning trainer Denise Foster was enjoying her first success at graded level, having recently taken over the licence at Cullentra House Stables from the suspended Gordon Elliott.

Foster, who landed a treble at Navan on Saturday, said: “It was the perfect race for him and on ratings he was entitled to win. He’ll probably head to Fairyhouse and Punchestown.

“He did it well and was happy bowling along in front. He jumped great and stayed on well.”

On Eagles Wings with Charlie Swan (left), Harry Swan (second right) and Timmy Hyde
On Eagles Wings with Charlie Swan (left), Harry Swan (second right) and Timmy Hyde (Alan Magee/PA)

On Eagles Wings took the other Grade Three on the card, the Bar One Racing ‘Download Our App’ Kingsfurze Novice Hurdle.

The 11-2 chance is trained by Timmy Hyde and was ridden by his grandson Harry Swan – son of the great Charlie Swan.

Charlie Swan said afterwards: “He jumped great and I’d say his jumping won it for him.

“That’s just Harry’s third ride over hurdles, but he’s had a good few rides in hunter chases and point-to-points. He’s had two winners and a second now over hurdles.

“I was roaring a bit, which was probably quite embarrassing when I think of it, but that was great. I can see what my mother went through as you are always a bit nervous, but that was fantastic and he gave him a great ride.”

Blazer leads triple challenge for Mullins in Leinster National

Blazer is one of three runners for Willie Mullins in the BARONERACING.COM Leinster National at Naas on Sunday.

The champion trainer saddled Pairofbrowneyes to land back-to-back runnings of the prestigious handicap chase in 2018 and 2019.

Blazer, one of six JP McManus-owned contenders for this year’s renewal, has not managed to get his head in front since winning at Punchestown in 2017, but assistant trainer Patrick Mullins is hoping he can deliver the big-race victory he has long promised.

He said: “Blazer has always threatened to have a big one in him.

“He finished second to Sharjah in a Galway Hurdle. He’s got a lovely racing weight in the Leinster National on Sunday.

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“He’s definitely going to pop up one day at a big price in one of these types of races, so hopefully it could be this weekend maybe.”

Blazer is joined by a pair of stablemates in Class Conti and and Saturnas, who were last seen finishing third and fourth in the Thyestes Chase at Gowran Park.

“Class Conti has top-weight, which is going to make life difficult for him,” Mullins added.

“He ran very well in the Thyestes. Hopefully he can get some prize-money again, but with top-weight it’s going to be hard to win.

“Saturnas ran very well in the Thyestes as well. I think he could come forward from that.

“He’s got plenty of weight as well, which again won’t make life easy, but I’d expect him to be in the money, hopefully.”

Denise Foster’s Dounikos, Paul Nolan’s Fitzhenry and Ten Ten from Philip Dempsey’s yard also feature in a 16-strong field.

The preceding BAR ONE RACING Directors Plate Novice Chase sees Foster’s Conflated come up against the Mullins-trained Harrie.

Conflated sets the standard in the Grade Three contest, after finishing a distant third behind star novice Monkfish at Leopardstown last month, while Harrie faces a step up in class following an all-the-way victory at Thurles.

Grade Three honours are also up for grabs in the Bar One Racing “Download Our App” Kingsfurze Novice Hurdle, in which Mullins and McManus team up with Shadow Rider.

Impressive in winning at Limerick over the Christmas period, the seven-year-old was last seen finishing seventh in Grade One company at the Dublin Racing Festival.

“He was disappointing in Leopardstown. We’re dropping back in trip and we know he’ll handle the heavy ground because he won on it in Limerick,” said Patrick Mullins.

“He shows us a lot at home so we’re hoping he can get back on track.”

Shadow Rider’s seven rivals include Keri Brion’s American challenger French Light and Tom Gibney’s recent Navan scorer Alko Rouge.

Naas option for Latest Exhibition

Latest Exhibition is a surprise name among the entries for the Bar One Racing Directors Plate at Naas.

Paul Nolan has given his stable star the option of running in Sunday’s Grade Three over two and a half miles before heading to Fairyhouse at Easter.

Nolan had last week announced that a return trip to Cheltenham for the 2020 Albert Bartlett runner-up was unlikely, having already chased home his Festival conqueror Monkfish twice more over fences since.

Latest Exhibition (left) would have won a further three Grade Ones if not for Monkfish
Latest Exhibition (left) would have won a further three Grade Ones if not for Monkfish (Simon Cooper/PA)

“We’ll make a final decision closer to the weekend – we’ve just given ourselves the option,” Nolan said of the eight-year-old’s Naas entry.

“We’re almost sure we won’t be going to Cheltenham, but we’re leaving it until the last minute just in case anything untoward happens.

“We’re just giving ourselves an option this weekend. If we hadn’t entered there was no decision to make.

“We’re looking at the Ryanair Gold Cup or the Irish National at Fairyhouse at Easter.

“We’ll make our  mind up a little bit later whether we run in Naas or not.”

Tom Mullins’ Court Maid, Willie Mullins’ Blackbow and Harrie are also among nine entries.

Brahma Bull and Coko Beach head the weights for the Baroneracing.com Leinster National on the same card.

Also in the mix is Cabaret Queen, who has already won the Munster and Kerry Nationals for her Syndicates Racing connections.

“It’s nice to have Naas as an option for Cabaret Queen,” said Jack Cantillon, manager of the syndicate.

Cabaret Queen with some of her owners following her Munster National win
Cabaret Queen with some of her owners following her Munster National win (Thomas Weekes)

“Bar One Racing are great supporters of the sport – and if she wasn’t to go to Cheltenham, where she holds an entry in the Mares’ Chase, we’d love to go here for the Bar One Racing Leinster National.

“As a Grade A Chase, it’s a Grade One on a catalogue page – which makes it particularly appealing for mares.

“Cabaret Queen has been brilliant for us, as the first horse we bought. She won the Munster National and the Kerry National, so it would be a nice feather in the cap to add the Bar One Racing Leinster National to that – on our way to our bid to claim the ultimate National, the Aintree Grand National.”

Zoffanien sets up Cheltenham run with Naas victory

Zoffanien is bound for the Cheltenham Festival following a runaway victory at Naas on Sunday.

Having been placed on four of his previous five starts over obstacles for Denis Hogan, the French import was the 6-4 favourite to open his account as he stepped into handicap company for the first time.

A week on from stealing the headlines with a remarkable riding performance aboard the Hogan-trained Young Dev at Navan, conditional jockey Hugh Morgan enjoyed a far more straightforward time in the Paddy Power Road To Cheltenham Handicap Hurdle.

Always travelling strongly, Zoffanien moved to the front between the final two flights before pulling nine lengths clear on the run-in – a performance which prompted Paddy Power to slash his odds for the Boodles Juvenile Handicap Hurdle at Cheltenham to 12-1 from 20-1.

Hogan said: “He did it nicely and to be fair he’s run into one or two (good horses). He got a few pounds for finishing second the last day, so we said that we’d claim the 5lb and Hugh did us no wrong last weekend in the same colours. We gave him irons today!

“He’ll probably go for the Fred Winter (Boodles) now, and he’d no business going for it if he didn’t win today. Hopefully he comes out of that OK and gets there in one piece. He handles soft ground and he stays well.”

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Joseph O’Brien and JJ Slevin combined to land the most valuable race of the afternoon – the 40,000 euros Paddy Power ‘From The Horse’s Mouth’ Podcast Novice Handicap Chase.

Despite the burden of top-weight, 5-1 shot Home By The Lee proved 10 lengths too strong for 11-4 favourite Enjoy D’allen.

Home By The Lee was a wide-margin winner
Home By The Lee was a wide-margin winner (Brian Lawless/PA)

“He’s a very excitable horse at home and got very wound up at Leopardstown last time. He was very relaxed in the paddock today and went down last lovely and relaxed,” said O’Brien’s assistant Brendan Powell.

“He jumps and he stays. You think he’s beat a long way out, but he comes there and he tries. He’s an honest horse.

“It’s nice to get his head in front again. I’m sure there is plenty for him at Fairyhouse and Punchestown.”

Egality Mans was one of three winners on the card for Willie Mullins
Egality Mans was one of three winners on the card for Willie Mullins (Brian Lawless/PA)

Egality Mans (8-11 favourite) completed a treble on the card for Willie Mullins and Paul Townend with victory in division one of the Paddy Power Livestream UK & Irish Racing On The App Maiden Hurdle.

The champion trainer and jockey had earlier successfully combined with Cilaos Emery and Echoes In Rain for graded race success.

Mullins said of Egality Mans: “As you can see, he looks like a horse that wants to go chasing sooner rather than later, but we’ll let him finish out the season novice hurdling.

“He definitely needs a fence. He’s the build of a chaser and jumps like one. We’ll probably head to Fairyhouse.”

Mullins and Townend were widely expected to make it four from four on the day in division two, but 4-5 favourite Micro Manage was too keen for his own good in front and was mowed down on the run-in by Enda Bolger’s Genois (100-30), with Mark Walsh the winning rider.

“He’s a nice horse and the nicer ground today was a help,” said Bolger.

“He’ll get further as well, so hopefully we’ll find something for him in the next month or so and end up going to Punchestown for a race.

“He’s a chaser down the line and I’m chuffed with that.”

Light Brigade (4-1) won the Paddy’s Rewards Club Handicap Hurdle for trainer Charles Byrnes and jockey Kevin Brouder, while Gerri Colombe (1-2 favourite) won the closing Paddy Power (Pro/Am) INH Flat Race.

Rain bounces back to winning form for Mullins team

Echoes In Rain got back on the winning trail with a thoroughly impressive display in the Paddy Power Betting Shop Novice Hurdle at Naas.

The Willie Mullins-trained mare bolted up over the course and distance in December, before finishing fourth in the Moscow Flyer Novice Hurdle at Punchestown on her latest appearance.

The daughter of Authorized was the 11-8 favourite to strike Grade Two gold at the second attempt – and after tracking the pacesetting Razzle Dazzle Love for much of the two-mile journey, she travelled powerfully into the lead early in the home straight.

Belfast Banter came from further back to try to close the gap, but Echoes In Rain never looked in serious danger of being caught in the hands of Paul Townend and could easily have won by further than the official margin of eight lengths.

Mullins said: “She’s learning and at least she got a full round of jumping in there, not like the last day here, when it was nearly a Flat race (hurdles not jumped in the straight due to the low lying sun).

“She’s learning how to settle and there was a good pace, which helped her.”

Considering future targets, the champion trainer added: “There is a race here in a fortnight that might be a little too soon for her and there is also a novice in Fairyhouse at Easter.

“She had a tough enough race there because she is tough on herself. Maybe the experience over hurdles is teaching her to race and it might do her no harm experience-wise for the future.

“She has a lovely turn of foot and if we could teach her to settle better and use that, she could make a very smart two-miler.

“A faster pace over better ground would help her. She’s going the right way.”

Mullins expresses Festival doubts for Emery despite Naas success

Cilaos Emery is not certain to be part of Willie Mullins’ formidable squad for the Cheltenham Festival despite producing a dominant display in the first race at Naas on Sunday.

Fourth in the Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham last March, Cilaos Emery had run just once since – filling the runner-up spot behind stablemate Bachasson in November’s Clonmel Oil Chase.

With champion jockey Paul Townend in the saddle, the nine-year-old was the 1-2 favourite to make a successful return in the Grade Three WhatOddsPaddy? Chase and could hardly have been more impressive.

Cilaos Emery set a sound pace from flag-fall, with Daly Tiger the only one of his three rivals able to keep tabs on him.

There was little to choose between the pair leaving the back straight, but the market leader readily asserted from the home turn and passed the post with 11 lengths in hand.

“The break did him no harm and he’s come back good and strong,” said Mullins.

“He jumped great and I was really pleased with that.

“We’ll try to find another similar type of race for him.”

Cilaos Emery after winning at Naas
Cilaos Emery after winning at Naas (Alan Magee/PA)

Cilaos Emery is entered in both the Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase and the Ryanair Chase at Cheltenham, but Mullins added: “I don’t know if he’ll travel.

“There might be nice prizes on the home front. It’s good to get him back to winning ways.

“We did a lot of work on his jumping and I’m very pleased it has paid off.”

Streets Of Doyen limbering up for Cheltenham

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.”

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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.

Cilaos Emery returns to action for Willie Mullins
Cilaos Emery returns to action for Willie Mullins (Brian Lawless/PA)

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.”