With 24 days to Cheltenham, a Sunday Naas card is something of a last-chance saloon in terms of earning festival tickets, although Simply Ned's priorities are more short-term.
The card's top-rated horse, not entered for Cheltenham, is a rare cross-channel raider for a significant Irish prize this season and how Simply Ned and jockey Brian Harding tackle the Grade 2 Paddy Power Nationwide Chase will be fascinating.
The veteran Cork-born rider was left in something of a no-man’s land at Leopardstown over Christmas when Un De Sceaux’s second last fence exit left him in front to be shot at by Flemenstar.
For a horse that doesn’t like daylight for long, it was an unenviable situation to be left in and ultimately Simply Ned was denied a first Grade 1 success. The upshot is that off a mark of 159 he theoretically holds the aces for Sunday’s race, although how Harding keeps his powder dry for the closing stages will be interesting.
Simply Ned's trainer Nicky Richards also runs Un Noble in the €50,000 Nas Na Riogh Handicap Chase and the decision to switch this to a Grade B handicap has again paid off with a competitive dozen-runner field.
Robert Tyner’s good mare Carrigmoorna Rock suffered fatal injuries at the last Naas fixture, but the Co Cork trainer could have better fortune this time with his Clonmel winner Vicangelome at the bottom of the weights.
In Cheltenham terms, there is likely to be more interest in how Dermot Weld’s Vigil, a 33-1 shot for the Supreme, goes in his second start over hurdles, while the five-runner finale has a notable pedigree in terms of throwing up future stars, including the subsequent festival winners, Hairy Molly and Pizarro.
Go Native landed the Grade 2 novice hurdle before going on to land the Supreme in 2009. Au Quart de Tour is entered in all three novice events at Cheltenham although a horse with no festival entry, Don’t Touch It, can trump him.