Very Wood gets the nap to land a fascinating Grade 3 Surehaul Mercedes-Benz Novice Hurdle at Clonmel this afternoon.
Noel Meade’s charge is finally going to get what’s required, at least in theory, two miles and six and travelling right-handed.
He ran a race rich in promise, over an inadequate two miles, in the Grade 1 Royal Bond at Fairyhouse in December when fifth behind The Tullow Tank.
The Martaline gelding then stepped up half a mile in trip in the Grade 2 Slaney Novice Hurdle at Naas in early January, but could only manage third of three behind Briar Hill and Apache Jack.
The selection was going on quite nicely at the finish, however, and all the evidence is that he will be far happier heading in the opposite direction.
Gordon Elliott’s Double Irish, a very difficult horse to assess, is put forward as the principal worry.
He stepped way up on previous efforts in a two-mile maiden hurdle at Leopardstown at Christmas, strolling to a 13 lengths and seven lengths defeat of subsequent winners, Champagne James and Quickpick Vic, and that, visually, was especially impressive.
The equally fascinating Derrygrath Chase has attracted just four runners and the one who cannot be fancied is Lookoutnow.
The form horse is undoubtedly Willie Mullins’ Turban, who left very disappointing efforts well behind when taking a competitive and valuable handicap by six lengths at Fairyhouse.
Whether this type of contest will play to his strengths, though, is questionable and preference is for a former Mullins inmate, Aupcharlie.
This will be his first run for Henry de Bromhead and a belated first of the campaign, but he did win in a canter on his debut last season.
Certainly, the eight-year-old will prove hard to beat if in the same mood as when beaten a head into second, it was 17 lengths back to the third, by Cheltenham festival hero, Back In Focus, in a Grade 1 at Leopardstown in December of 2012.
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