We managed to find some plunge horses at Punchestown and Cork last week in Fruits Of Glory and Another Rebel but neither was mapped; backing horses that shorten up substantially is profitable in the long-term but that does little to ease the annoyance on the day. Thankfully Monalee got the job done in the maiden hurdle and while I'd like to say he looked like a decent prospect, I really don't know with the fog that clouded proceedings. Let's hope Navan doesn't suffer from the same problem as Punchestown last Sunday and Gowran yesterday.
Navan 12:40 - Truth can Stretch the favourite
Death Duty is the right favourite for the Monksfield, his second to Blow By Blow conceding weight as good a piece of bumper form as there was outside of graded races last season, and he continued in a similar vein when winning his maiden hurdle. Even so, quotes around 2.56/4 are tight about one that may prefer softer ground and faces some promising rivals.
The weakness in this race is the middle part of the market and both Livelovelaugh and Monbeg Notorious are vulnerable; the former has been a problem horse and won a weak early season maiden while the latter was a fortunate winner at Down Royal when off the bridle from a long way out.
Stretchingthetruth is the interesting one, albeit perhaps more in the shoulder markets like without the favourite and extra places. He won despite doing everything wrong last time, jumping the first poorly and most of the rest too before being hampered at the final hurdle, and while his track form is hard to rate he did win a point-to-point that proved strong. This softer ground should suit and his trainer has a fantastic record in the race, so much so that it isn't unreasonable to think Stretchingthetruth is his best novice.
Navan 13:45 - Edwulf has solid chase form
Min should prove a top-class novice chaser this season and I don't think the Supreme was his true form; he cracked a couple of hurdles down the back and returned with an injury soon afterwards. That he managed second in the circumstances reflects well on him and Willie Mullins clearly aims his best novices at this race.
However, Edwulf does look overpriced and it's worth remembering he was about to destroy a trio of rivals rated 139, 138 and 138 on his sole chase start before falling at the last. That run came over course-and-distance and it looks a positive that he comes back here for his seasonal debut as it suggests making amends was the target. He was no slouch over hurdles either in a curtailed campaign, looking set to go close in a Grade 2 before falling three out.
Navan 14:20 - Abolitionist can outrun big odds
The Troytown is heavy on numbers but not quality though the one I'm really keen on is the third reserve Sonny B; he'd be must-bet material is getting in after an unlucky third at Punchestown last Sunday when he suffered two pieces of significant hampering.
As things stand Abolitionist is worth a small bet . Ellmarie Holden has done very well in her short training career thus far, improving a few from other yards, and Abolitionist looked like he'd done likewise when going close at Wexford last month, only just failing to catch an enterprisingly ridden winner over a trip short of his best. That was his first run in 14 months and there should be improvement for fitness.
Navan 14:50 - Back Crafty Mullins switcher
Potentially well-treated horses are plentiful in this Grade C handicap hurdle with Fine Rightly and Jury Duty both interesting; the former shaped well for a long way in this race last season and has had a number of entries lately so should be straight while the latter got a poor ride in Punchestown when in front too soon.
Even so, it is hard to pass over The Crafty Butcher who has moved to Willie Mullins, a trainer who has a superb record with switchers. It's not as if he has to improve the horse either as he's dropped to a mark of 125 - he previously won off 127 and has proved competitive off figures in the 130s - and it looks significant that he has recently been bought by some rugby players with Mullins himself a fan of the sport. I doubt very much that the trainer has put these 'celebrities' into a bad horse and it's worth noting that Ruby Walsh rode him plenty for his previous trainer so should know what he is.
1 Point Back Stretchingthetruth @ 9.08/1 or bigger in the Navan 12:40
1 Point Back Edwulf @ 10.09/1 or bigger in the Navan 13:45
1 Point Place Back Edwulf @ 2.265/4 or bigger in the Navan 13:45
0.5 Point Back Abolitionist @ 29.028/1 or bigger in the Navan 14:20
0.5 Point Place Back Abolitionist @ 7.06/1 or bigger in the Navan 14:20
1 Point Back The Crafty Butcher @ 8.07/1 or bigger in the Navan 14:50
1 Point Place Back The Crafty Butcher @ 2.56/4 or bigger in the Navan 14:50
National Hunt Season P+L: +2.3 points