Racegoers will be treated to some clues for the Cheltenham Festival – both on the track and off the track – at Naas Racecourse on Sunday.
Each of the four runners for the WhatOddsPaddy? Chase hold Cheltenham Festival entries with the Gordon Elliott-trained Doctor Phoenix bidding for back to back victories in the Grade 3 contest.
Doctor Phoenix is the highest rated runner in the line up and will face his stable companion Tycoon Prince, the Willie Mullins-trained Punchestown Festival winner Cadmium and Avenir D’Une Vie for in-form trainer Henry de Bromhead.
Doctor Phoenix hasn’t won since claiming this race twelve months ago but his trainer is hopeful that the top rated runner in the field can bounce back to form ahead of a possible trip to Cheltenham.
“He’s got entries in a couple of the handicaps at Cheltenham but we’ll just see how he gets on at Naas first of all,” said Elliott.
“He hasn’t reached the heights of last season yet but he has run some respectable races in good company and I’d say the dry winter hasn’t worked in his favour as a lot of his best form is on soft or heavy ground.
“He’s very well in himself and it’s a nice small field so hopefully he will run well and I’m hoping that our other runner, Tycoon Prince, can get back to the form that saw him finish second to Saint Calvados here earlier in the season,” added Elliott.
Elliott will also have high hopes of landing the Grade 2 Paddy Power Onside App Novice Hurdle where he saddles the promising Chosen Mate and last weekend’s Navan maiden hurdle winner Milan Native.
“They are two nice novices with potential and Chosen Mate showed that he could win a decent novice hurdle before the end of the season when he was second in a good race at Punchestown a few weeks ago,” commented Elliott.
“He’s only run twice so hopefully there’s more to come from him. Milan Native is a lovely, big chasing type but he did well to win at Navan last weekend and deserves a crack at a decent race.”
The Grade 2 runner-up Jetez represents Jessica Harrington while the Willie Mullins-trained Prince D’Aubrelle and the smart Tom Mullins mare Court Maid make this a very intriguing race.
The most valuable race of the day is the €50,000 Paddy Power 6th Bet Free Novice Handicap Chase where Kildorrery is a likely contender for Ted Walsh and jockey Michael Stenson.
The recent course winner Poker Party will bid to continue Rachael Blackmore’s strong push for jockey’s championship honours while Uisce Beatha is another likely contender.
The Paddy Power Horsebot Pro/Am Bumper on the card was won by Carefully Selected last year and he almost followed up to win the Champion Bumper at Cheltenham the following month. There could also be a notable Cheltenham clue in the same race on Sunday as Joseph O’Brien’s Midnight Run looks to build on his second to the Cheltenham Bumper favourite, Envoi Allen, at Navan a couple of months ago.
Champion jockey Davy Russell, who rides both Doctor Phoenix and Chosen Mate, will also be offering some insightful views on an all-star panel for the Paddy Power Cheltenham Preview which takes place in the recently renovated grandstand after racing.
Davy Russell will be giving his thoughts on his upcoming Cheltenham Festival rides including Presenting Percy and the preparation of the Gold Cup favourite following his omission from possible prep races last weekend and this weekend. Russell will be joined by Willie Mullins’ assistant trainer David Casey, top Racing Post journalist David Jennings and former Waterford hurler and punters pal John Mullane. MC for the evening is Rob Catterson. Entry to the Paddy Power Cheltenham Preview in aid of the Irish Injured Jockeys is €10.
“This weekend could be the last chance shrewd bettors have to pick up on any remaining clues ahead of Cheltenham. The introduction of our Cheltenham preview evening at Naas Racecourse after the main event means punters should be well ahead of the posse come Sunday evening,” a spokesperson for Paddy Power said.
The first on an eight race card at Naas is due off at 1.30pm on Sunday with Racing TV presenter Kevin O’Ryan also set to get the Cheltenham views of Ireland’s leading trainers in the parade ring throughout the day.
Further details can be found at www.naasracecourse.com