It's the historic Troytown day at Navan this afternoon and Tony Keenan has found six horses to back at the Meath track...
"Arkwrisht looks a well-treated horse on his runs in both the Cork and Irish Nationals last season, travelling best of all in first contest only to not get home before suffering significant hampering from Bellshill at the last at Fairyhouse."
It may only be a month until Christmas but good ground remains standard at most Irish tracks, Navan this afternoon included. While it is a disappointing that some of the proper winter types remain on the sidelines, it makes sense that trainers don't want their stars running on relatively quick ground first time back; it is one thing to run them on good in the spring when they have a summer's rest ahead of them but getting jarred up now could put their season on hold.
The knock-on effects of this are interesting to ponder. Horses that might have ideally had a run by this point will now be starting off in mid-December or at Christmas and may be less seasoned in spring than would typically be the case. Cheltenham is Cheltenham and will always attract competitive fields but I wonder if Fairyhouse and Punchestown might be the real beneficiaries as horses that had a curtailed campaign will be in need of somewhere to run.
Navan 12:00 - Momus can deliver on Galway promise
Gordon Elliott left the impression that Defi Bleu would need his Down Royal reappearance in a big way and he ran well in the circumstances, going down by a length to Brace Yourself. Like many in the yard at this time of the year, significant improvement from first to second run can be expected but the form of last time hasn't worked out, the close-up third beaten at odds-on since and the fourth down the field in a handicap last Sunday, allowing he met some trouble.
There is also a worry about Defi Bleu's attitude; he looked a difficult ride when winning his bumper here and was inclined to hang on hurdles debut. Perhaps it is just residual greenness but at the prices Momus is preferred. The Galway maiden hurdle he was third in last time looked strong, the three Mullins horses to emerge from it running well since while he was conceding fitness and weight to them all. A mistake at the second last didn't help and I would have him closer to the favourite in price than is currently the case.
Navan 13:00 - Meade runner a strong fancy but don't discount Western Victory
Three of Elliott's 25-strong team this afternoon run in the Monksfield Novice Hurdle but Dinons and Felix Desjy may be worth opposing; the former has a six-pound penalty and seems better over further while the latter has never looked like he wanted much more than two miles under rules as he tends to be very keen. Magnium and Choungaya raced close to a slow pace here last time and may be flattered so perhaps two less exposed runners are the way to go.
First Approach has to step up to this grade after a maiden win but he was really impressive last time, particularly with his hurdling, clearing away from a decent sort in Diamond Turf. It looks a positive that connections have chosen to run him rather than their other initial entry Brace Yourself who looked ideal for the race.
Western Victory is a much bigger price, her Galway win perhaps put down to fluke, but while she got to dictate a slow pace at Ballybrit there are other reasons for optimism. Her only previous hurdles experience came at Gowran last January in a race that worked out well and the Galway contest she won also looks strong; Getaway Katie May was second, she seemed to have Tintangle in trouble when she fell two out and a few from down the field have run well since. That was her first run in 248 days so she should improve while her rider was of the view that going left-handed would also suit.
Navan 14:30 - Three against the field in deep Troytown
Ground concerns have had no real effect on the Troytown field and as with the Betfair Chase yesterday prizemoney can trump all; there €100,000 in total prizemoney available here and a full field of 25 is declared. Of the shorter-priced runners, Arkwrisht makes most appeal in the hope that his seasonal return over a shorter trip will have put him right for this. He looks a well-treated horse on his runs in both the Cork and Irish Nationals last season, travelling best of all in first contest only to not get home before suffering significant hampering from Bellshill at the last at Fairyhouse. He finished only sixth that day but might well have been the second-best horse at the weights and gets to compete off the same mark now. If anything, three miles is better for him than further and he has won on decent ground too.
A pair of bigger-priced runners are worth small savers though. Mine Now has been a standing dish in some of the better staying handicap hurdles for a few seasons now and finds himself 12lbs lower than over hurdles after a late switch to chasing; judging on his Galway third in August he can compete off this mark. That race was over two miles six furlongs and he looked in need of further and hopefully his recent Wexford outing will put him spot on for this, allowing that a fall is not ideal preparation.
There is a suspicion that the ultimate aim for Grand Partner is Leopardstown at Christmas as his last four wins have come at that track but like Mine Now he is rated lower over fences than over hurdles and it is hard to ignore him as one of the outsiders of the field. He shaped well at Punchestown last Sunday, trapped wide but jumping and travelling well, and the fourth from that race won a decent event at Gowran yesterday. That run was off a six-week break and it might be that he needed it a little as he is one that thrives on racing.
Tony Keenan 2018 P/L
1 Point Back Momus @ 3.55/2 or bigger in the Navan 12:00
1 Point Back First Approach @ 4.57/2 or bigger in the Navan 13:00
0.5 Point Back Western Victory @ 28.027/1 or bigger in the Navan 13:00
1 Point Back Arkwrisht @ 15.014/1 or bigger in the Navan 14:30
0.5 Point Back Mine Now @ 26.025/1 or bigger in the Navan 14:30
0.5 Point Back Grand Partner @ 50.049/1 or bigger in the Navan 14:30