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There is a brilliant card at Naas on Saturday, with the Adare Manor Opportunity Handicap Hurdle looking like the highlight. I’ve taken a look at four of the races and picked out my best bets.
The return to two and a half miles suited Bilbo Bagins at Punchestown last time, and he maintained his quiet progress over fences by winning cosily despite making mistakes at the last couple of fences; indeed, it was encouraging to see how he battled after his last-fence blunder threatened to throw the race away there, and he’s clearly capable of making further progress assuming he can cut out such errors. He also posted a solid effort on the clock when runner-up at Navan in December, and while plenty of his rivals come here in form, those efforts stand out in terms of time, and he will be hard to beat granted a decent pace.
Room To Roam has looked potentially useful when hitting the frame on both starts over hurdles to date, and he can make it third-time lucky in this race, with the presence of Pete So High likely to make him a backable price. Runner-up to Spring Juvenile Hurdle winner Mr Adjudicator on debut, he again shaped with abundant promise when third to Sayo and Les Arceaux over this C&D last time. The pair who beat him look well above average, and that form could prove better than it looks now.
Willie Mullins seems to have a stranglehold on this with both Benie des Dieux and Asthuria representing the Closutton handler. Ready preference is for the former, who is open to plenty of improvement and looks more of a chaser on looks than the sparely-made Asthuria, who wasn’t always the safest conveyance over hurdles. Dinaria des Obeaux has wins in listed and Grade 2 company already over fences, so it’s folly to ignore her, but she is more exposed than the selection, and vulnerable to an improver.
Easy Pass doesn’t jump off the page on recent form, but the son of Elusive Pimpernel has gone into my notebook after taking the eye once or twice on the flat last summer, and he could well prove a different proposition now handicapping over hurdles. He was tried in pattern company as a juvenile, and yet is able to race off a mark of just 94 on this handicap bow. That looks lenient based on his flat form, and while he might not be entirely straightforward, he has much more latent ability than his opening mark suggests. He is refitted with a tongue tie for this contest, and is worth chancing at the morning prices.