Carefully Selected could earn festival place at Naas ‘trials day’
Bellshill makes return to action in Bobbyjo Chase at Fairyhouse
Patrick Mullins on Carefully Selected. Willie Mullins’s horse could be a popular selection to get the better of Gordon Elliott’s Invincible Cave. Photograph: Tommy Dickson/Inpho
The countdown has begun in earnest to the start of the National Hunt festival, with Naas hosting a “Cheltenham trials day” on Sunday billed as a last-chance saloon for those hoping to earn a Prestbury Park place.
It is true that in 2009 the Grade Two Paddy Power App Novice Hurdle threw up the subsequent Supreme winner Go Native, and two subsequent Champion Bumper heroes – Pizarro (2002) and Hairy Molly (2006) – won here on-route to Cheltenham glory.
Yet in breeding vernacular it is a fixture that could use a pedigree update, especially with the modern trend for keeping festival powder dry for as long as possible. Perhaps Carefully Selected might buck the trend.
An impressive Leopardstown scorer over Christmas, Carefully Selected is as low as 14-1 to become Willie Mullins’s ninth winner of the Weatherbys Champion Bumper in just over two weeks’ time.
The form of his racecourse debut has worked out well with The Long Dog (fourth) and Master Of Tara (sixth) subsequently winning, so Carefully Selected could be a popular selection to get the better of Gordon Elliott’s Invincible Cave.
Mullins and Elliott top the market for the leading trainer award at Cheltenham, so it’s little surprise the country’s two dominant figures are heavily represented this weekend.
Elliott has three hopefuls in the featured Grade Two hurdle at Naas, with Jack Kennedy set to team up with Cartwright and Davy Russell on board Hardline. These look to be second-division among Elliott’s novice team overall, however, a comment that also applies to the sole Mullins hope Makitorix.
The Deloitte winner Tower Bridge looks Joseph O’Brien’s leading novice candidate going to Cheltenham, but if there’s a potential top class candidate in Sunday’s contest it could be another JP McManus-owned horse Speak Easy.
This point-to-point winner was pitched in at the deep end on his last start when fifth to Next Destination in the first Grade One of 2018 here last month.
The drop back to two miles looks a significant move, and Speak Easy can get the better of the Punchestown maiden winner Impact Factor.
Elliott has three of the five runners in the Grade Three Chase, and his Dan Moore winner Doctor Phoenix looks a clear pick on ratings. He has 7lb in hand of his stable companion Ball D’Arc, and on figures last year’s winner Alisider D’Irlande has a lot on his plate.
With Ruby Walsh still to make his return to action, and Paul Townend also set to be on the sidelines until next weekend, David Mullins can look forward to a number of good rides for his uncle Willie Mullins.
They include the former Grade One winning hurdler Bellshill, who returns to action after almost a year off in Saturday’s Fairyhouse feature.
Last season’s RSA third has some good form when it comes to winning first time out, and although he would prefer better ground than will be available his biggest rival Mala Beach would probably prefer it softer.
Cheltenham’s Fred Winter is a likely target if Mitchouka confirms his ratings superiority in the Grade Three Winning Fair Hurdle.