I’m sitting out the weekend as I bruised by my hand at Down Royal last Friday and, by continuing to ride, I never gave the swelling a chance to go down, and kept aggravating it.

It was quite sore after riding on Wednesday, so I just had to give it a week to settle down. The aim is to be back for next weekend’s meetings at Punchestown, and if I could make Clonmel on Thursday, for the Clonmel Oil Chase meeting, all the better.

Willie runs four this afternoon at Naas, starting with American Tom returns in the Poplar Square Chase. He started well last year, winning a beginners’ chase in Punchestown, but was well beaten when he fell at Naas, on his second start.

He’s back in training a good while, seems to be in good form, and has been working well. Going left-handed definitely suits him and we think he’s in really good order, so we’re hoping for a big run.

Obviously Ordinary World was a decent novice last year and, to be fair, probably has stronger form than American Tom.

Meri Devie’s season starts in the Grade 3 Fishery Lane Hurdle. She was a promising juvenile, but probably has a tough enough reintroduction. On official figures, she is a pound wrong with Ex Patriot but, as well as that, is short of match fitness.

Ex Patriot ran in the Lartigue Hurdle and the Istabraq Hurdle and, just a fortnight ago, in the October Handicap, so definitely has a serious fitness edge over Meri Devie.

But, she seems to be in good order, and seems to be progressing every week. We thought she was a smart filly last year, and she ran to a reasonable level of form without ever fulfilling the hope we had for her. We think she’ll run a big race today, but just worry she might need the run against her race-fit rivals.

Next Destination makes his hurdling debut in the two-mile-three maiden. I rode him in the Cheltenham Bumper and he ran a blinder to finish fourth behind Fayonagh. He won a point to point, and has schooled really well, but this race revolves around Pallasator.

Gordon Elliott’s horse looked a reformed character when he won a charity race at Punchestown, under Norman Williamson. His behaviour in the parade ring, in the preliminaries, and on the way to the start, was a lot better than it had been on his previous runs on the flat in England.

He’s reported to have schooled well, was a high-class flat horse, and the trip will be no problem to him. If he jumps, it will take a very good performance to beat him.

Next Destination is a smart horse and they’re both first time over hurdles, but Pallasator is a genuine Group horse off the flat, rated 113 at his peak, and it’s a big ask for any bumper horse to beat that.

Bacardys makes his chasing debut in the two-mile-three beginners’ chase. His work has been very good, and he has schooled well. He had a great season last year.

Alright, he tipped up on his first start, at Cork, but won a maiden in Leopardstown and then a Grade 1 at that track. He was unlucky at Cheltenham, when all but brought down early in the race, but he came back to Punchestown and signed off his season winning another Grade 1.

He’s clearly a high-class horse, and comes here in very good form. Some of these come here with a run under their belt, but we like Bacardys, he’s one of our better novices, and we’d be hopeful of a good start.

Our runners are a bit thinner on the ground tomorrow at Navan, but the two we run have good chances. There had been a lot of talk about Samcro running in the Grade 3 For Auction Novice Hurdle, but he doesn’t line up, which changes the complexion of the race somewhat.

We run a really nice horse, in Stratum. He won very well in Galway, and is entitled to have improved for his first start over hurdles. Like Galway, Navan is a stiff track, so that will suit him. He is working well, and I think he’ll run a huge race. Hopefully he can collect, and put himself in place for a tilt at the Royal Bond.

We have no runner in the Lismullen Hurdle, but Apple’s Jade is a star attraction. She was very good all through last season, and they seem to be very happy with her in Cullentra Stables.

She was beaten first time out last season, but won first time out the previous season, so there’s probably not a lot to read into that. She will take beating.

Willie’s other runner at Navan is Footpad, who starts off over fences. He stayed hurdling last year, and ran respectably in the Champion Hurdle, finishing fifth. He probably didn’t stay when third behind Unowhatimeanharry and Nichols Canyon over two and a half miles at Punchestown, but has schooled really well, is in good order, and gets the nap to make a successful chasing debut.


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