One of the most notable takeaways from the early throes of what is often referred to as the jumps season 'proper' has been the excellent form of Paul Nolan's stable.
Victory for the well-backed Valentina Lady under promising conditional Sean O'Keeffe in the bumper at Naas yesterday brought the Wexford trainer's tally for the last fortnight to six wins from his last 25 runners and I'm hoping that hot streak might continue into today's attractive Navan card.
In-form Nolan yard to bag another winner
First up is the hat-trick seeking Latest Exhibition in the Grade 2 For Auction Novice Hurdle, and at 10/3 on the Betfair Sportsbook the lightly-raced six year-old looks the value alternative to hot favourite Abacadabras.
Runner-up in a 2m2f bumper at last year's Limerick Christmas festival on his belated debut, the Oscar gelding went one better over an extra furlong at Naas a month later and there was a lot to like about his initial foray over obstacles in a two-mile maiden at Galway on his reappearance a fortnight ago.
Conceding both race-fitness and jumping experience to warm favourite Thatsy - himself a bumper winner - the son of Milan coped well with a trip that might have been expected to be on the sharp side for him, pulling clear after the last to score by 4 ½ lengths with the two a country mile clear of the rest. That form at the very least looks comparable to what today's market leader achieved at Gowran Park, and the accent on stamina in what are sure to be demanding conditions can only be a positive for Latest Exhibition's chance today.
Willie Mullins has clicked into gear ominously early this winter but his representative here Fast Buck, while rated 145, may struggle to give 4lb to the less exposed duo.
Stiffer test to bring more Nolan success
The two-mile handicap hurdle at 14:45 is complicated by owner JP McManus having five representatives, any one of whom could easily prove themselves to be well ahead of their mark.
However despite that Nolan could be the man to follow once again as I fancy his Quamino to at the very least go close.
A fair sort in handicap hurdles a couple of seasons ago, the six year-old developed into a smart handicap chaser last term and gave his connections a memorable day when landing a €100,000 contest at Leopardstown in February.
He failed to cut any ice on his return to this discipline at Fairyhouse following a summer break but nevertheless ran better than the bare facts suggest behind subsequent dual scorer Shumaker and is likely to be much more at home over this stiffer test.
O'Keeffe had his claim reduced to 5lb after his polished steer in yesterday's finale but is still able to claim 7lb here as declarations had already been made.