Top novices set for Naas clash

Top novices set for Naas clash

Gigginstown House Stud are double-handed in search of Grade Three glory at Naas on Sunday.

Both Bog Warrior and Rathlin are set to sport their colours in a cracking Naas Directors Plate Novice Chase, which has a small but highly select total of four runners.

Irish Arkle winner Flemenstar is a clear leader on the official ratings but the Tony Martin-trained Bog Warrior beat him earlier in the season.

Bog Warrior subsequently landed the Grade One Drinmore Chase before tipping up at Leopardstown over Christmas and regaining the winning thread at this track last time.

Mouse Morris’ Rathlin supplies Gigginstown with a second string to their bow as he bids to extend a three-race unbeaten run.

The seven-year-old was a Grade Two winner at this track last time and Gigginstown’s Eddie O’Leary believes the ground should be fine for both their runners, despite Bog Warrior’s preference for ease.

“The plan is to run them both. We are hoping the ground will be soft enough for Bog Warrior, and I think it should be, while there’s no problem for Rathlin,” he said.

“We obviously have to respect Flemenstar as he’s a hell of a horse. He’s a fantastic horse and we thought they wouldn’t meet until the Powers Gold Cup but it’s happening a few weeks earlier.

“Bog Warrior did beat Flemenstar earlier in the year but that was only a beginners’ chase and Flemenstar has come on a lot since then.

“Rathlin is a very nice horse, his confidence is riding high and he’s still improving.

“It’s a fantastic race – it’s good for racing and good for Naas.

“The Powers Gold Cup might be where we look after but obviously Bog Warrior is very ground dependent and it might not be right for him there.”

Flemenstar has 4lb in hand of Bog Warrior on the official figures after winning three of his four starts over fences.

His only defeat came at the hands of Bog Warrior last November but he has picked himself up and become one of the best novices in Ireland, as witnessed by his 19-length demolition job at Leopardstown back January.

All Flemenstar’s recent victories have come on testing ground but trainer Peter Casey is not concerned by the slightly quicker conditions on offer this time.

He said: “We won’t be worried about the ground drying up a touch, he handled it at Fairyhouse last year.

“When Bog Warrior beat us, our lad just wasn’t quite right but he is now.”

“We’re not worried about any of the others. Our lad is rated the best by the handicapper.”

Dessie Hughes’ Frisco Depot completes the quartet, although he is on something of a recovery mission after pulling up last time.

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