Navan Sunday: A Stark reminder of Elliott’s dominance4 min read
Ned Stark can take the Troytown Chase on his first start over fences for well over two years.
First Approach improved for the move to good ground when winning a bumper at Tipperary in October, and ran even better under a penalty in similar conditions at Cork before making his hurdles bow at Down Royal’s big meeting early this month. There he impressed in making all, particularly with his fluent jumping, and he looked a smart prospect in beating Diamond Turf by 13 lengths. He’s open to improvement, and can make the jump to graded company straight away.
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This handicap hurdle can go to the well-treated Warnaq. Her best race over hurdles came when a good fourth at Fairyhouse last month, proving herself fully effective away from the mud in the process, and since then she has won on the Flat, producing her best every performance to win a competitive handicap at Naas earlier in the month. She’s best forcing the pace on the Flat, and it would be encouraging to see her ridden a little more aggressively in this sphere, but whatever the tactics, she looks on a very lenient mark of 103, and it would be no surprise to see her run up a sequence over timber – Matthew Smith turned Rawnaq (no relation) from a seemingly exposed handicapper under both codes into a smart performer who has gone on to Grade 1 success in the USA.
Gordon Elliott has something of a stranglehold on this contest, winning the last four renewals, but such is his strength in the division that fancying one of Gordon’s doesn’t narrow the field appreciably, and it’s probably best to avoid the most obvious of the Elliott runners, which tend to be overbet with the public expecting some signs to latch onto. Ned Stark could be the fly in the ointment, and this former Alan King inmate is treading the same path as Bless The Wings who seemed to be on the decline for King before enjoying such a renaissance in his new environment. He’s only had one run for his new trainer, and that was a getting-to-know-you venture over hurdles last September. Another absence raises questions, but it’s encouraging that connections are keeping faith with a horse who started favourite for the National Hunt Handicap Chase at the 2015 Cheltenham Festival when a raw seven-year-old. He’s rising eleven now but has few miles on the clock, and is now over a stone lower in the weights. It would be quite the training performance to have him back to his best given his obvious issues, but if anyone can, it’s Gordon.
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