With racing in Britain remaining on lockdown into next week after the equine flu scare, Ireland is the focus this weekend with action taking place at Naas on Saturday and Punchestown on Sunday.
Konitho – 2.40 Naas (Saturday) @ 6/4
A French-bred son of Authorized, there was plenty to like about the way in which Konitho floored his 23 rivals when making a winning start for new handler Joseph O’Brien over the C&D at Naas last month. He came home some six lengths clear of his nearest pursuer and looked one to follow in doing so.
That run caught the eye of leading owner JP McManus and so Konitho will sport the famous hooped silks for the first time in this six-runner novice affair.
His experience of the C&D should prove very useful and, one of two from the O’Brien yard in the race, he’s fancied to account for his rivals here and enhance his reputation that bit more.
Synopsis – 2.10 Naas (Saturday) @ 4/1
Earlier on the card, there is a Listed Mares’ Chase over two miles and it will feature a likely short-priced favourite in the Willie Mullins-trained Pravalaguna. She won well at Limerick over Christmas but did benefit from her chief rival crashing out at the final fence, when the race was still in the balance. She is respected but far from unbeatable.
Synopsis delivered a career-best at Cheltenham in November when stringing her rivals out in winning a handicap over 2m4f.
Gordon Elliott then sent her back to England last month for a Listed Mares race at Huntingdon where she was well below her best.
That was over 2m4f and, just like Pravalaguna, she drops in trip now. This race appears an easier mission on paper than her Huntingdon contest was and Synopsis is deemed worthy of another crack in this grade.
Ballycasey – 1.45 Punchestown (Sunday) @ 7/1
Onto Sunday and there’s the always-interesting Cross Country fare at Punchestown over the unique banks course. Josies Orders is a worthy favourite and as reliable a benchmark as there is in this sphere but perhaps Ballycasey has scope for an upset.
Willie Mullins’ charge was a Grade One performer in his own right earlier in his career and he showed enough at Cheltenham in December to suggest there is some mileage left in him.
That was his first attempt on the Cross Country circuit as he finished an encouraging fifth behind the likes of Fact Of The Matter, My Hometown and the aforementioned Josies Orders. The 3m6f journey was a step into the unknown and, now back to a more conventional stamina test and with valuable Cross Country experience under his belt, Ballycasey is capable of having a say in this race.
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