Naas open a new €3.2 million building this afternoon and the spaceship-like The Circle certainly looks impressive judging on the images. The track have proved forward-thinking in recent years and this move will help push things forward again with further development planned in the near-future. As for this afternoon's card, it looks decent from a betting perspective.
Naas 13:50 - Oppose Mullins favourite with solid rivals
There was obvious promise in Sandsend's run at Limerick over Christmas and this drop in trip should suit with how keen he was there. That said, it wasn't so promising that he should to be around 2.89/5 for this and I would prefer to dutch the more proven pair Duca De Thaix and Forge Meadow at broadly similar combined odds.
Duca De Thaix ran a very promising fourth on his first start in Ireland after a long break before beating the thriving Us And Them last time; he might also improve again for that run as it came off a mini-break and after six starts there could be more to come. Forge Meadow is more exposed but she is in good form and gave Let's Dance a race of sorts last time. That was over a trip that stretches Forge Meadow a little while Let's Dance had her optimum conditions and this looks more suitable.
Naas 14:20 - Elliott second string the value pick
Jury Duty is the obvious one but his eight-pound penalty makes life tough and while he was second in a Grade One last time the race fell apart from an early stage. I'm also not convinced he's the complete slogger that might be needed here as he travels strongly in his race. Next in is Livelovelaugh but while he wins plenty of races there does seem to be a class ceiling, his record in graded races reading:0843494. Furthermore, he was free last time which might find him out over three miles.
Blinkers could spark Moulin A Vent but I didn't like the decision to back him up quickly over Christmas and he now comes here off a terrible run while jumping has been a career-long issue with him. That leaves Mossback who looks overpriced. The form of his debut win at this track is good and there were plenty of reasons to be positive about his fourth behind Invitation Only last time; he hadn't run in two months, the distance was too sharp and the pace was notably slow with a 118% finishing speed. He now gets to try the three-mile trip he's needed for a while and he stands out as the value pick.
Naas 15:20 - Champagne Pat a bounce-back candidate
This handicap hurdle is not particularly competitive and plenty of the field have something to prove. One of those is Champagne Pat after a tenth place finish at Leopardstown on his previous run but he at least had some consistency beforehand - more than can be said about many of these - and there are reasons for thinking he can get back on track now. Stamina looked the big issue last time and to put it simply he just looks overpriced relative to less likeable horses with more to prove. Tout Est Permis is an obvious danger with this drop in distance likely to suit but he had a very hard race last time and backs up quite quickly.
Naas 15:50 - Market leader should be shorter
As favourites go, The Informer is a solid one and he should be shorter than his current 3.55/2. He was particularly impressive in winning up north on St. Stephen's Day, travelling all over his opposition and needing little more than a push to win his race, and a 10-pound rise may not be enough to stop him. Given that was his first run since August, there could be improvement to come from fitness too.
Thirsty Work and Surf Instructor look short judging on their runs last time. Thirsty Work was flattered to come second at Punchestown, shaping like the fourth best horse but for a faller to hamper another at the last, and his jumping hasn't been good. Surf Instructor too could be overrated after last time when he might have been third-best and this trip could stretch him. Indeed, something like Next Bend could be the main danger to The Informer as he showed some promise at Navan last time.
Naas 16:20 - Improvement far from guaranteed with Voix Des Tiep
Voix Des Tiep put up a good time-figure behind Someday on bumper debut last February but his return over Christmas was disappointing in the context of that; always in the front rank in a slowly-run race, he could manage only to a pair of rivals that lacked his experience and had no excuses. One could make the case that he will improve for the run but that tends not to be the case with Mullins bumper horses when fresh or first-time-out; often, what you see is what you get. He was strong in the market last time and the trainer clearly aims his best bumper horses at the Christmas meeting (he won the other three bumpers at Leopardstown) so this was just a disappointing run.
That makes him worth a small lay in today's final race with the step up in trip no great positive either. Both Gallant John Joe and Mount Pelier are meaningful rivals, the former in particular shaping well at Punchestown last time April in what was a graded bumper in disguise. Hopefully one of that pair or Voix Des Tiep's own limitations will get the favourite beaten.
2018 P+L: +2.45 points