Timeform preview the Flyingbolt Novices' Chase at Navan on Saturday.
"...shaped better than the distance beaten suggests when fourth to Le Richebourg in the Irish Arkle at Leopardstown last time, not looking at all out of place in the company..."
Timeform on Duca de Thaix
Of the 14 Flyingbolt Novices' Chase winners since 2003 (last year's meeting was abandoned), three had a '+' attached to their Timeform rating, including the 2016 winner Sambremont who went on to step up markedly in trip in the Kim Muir at Cheltenham on his next outing. Though none of the four in Saturday's renewal have a '+' attached to their weight-adjusted ratings, which range from 148 to 172, three of the four do have Cheltenham Festival entries, though each will need to impress if they are to book a place on the boat across the Irish Sea.
The most obvious candidate is Duca de Thaix. It took him five starts to get off the mark over fences, but he won a handicap at Fairyhouse in December and followed up there in the Dan Moore Memorial Handicap Chase (by half a length from Cubomania) in January.
Though well held, Duca de Thaix then shaped better than the distance beaten suggests when fourth to Le Richebourg in the Irish Arkle at Leopardstown last time, not looking at all out of place in the company and briefly looking likely to be involved in the finish before being hampered at the last (when held).
Jetz has already finished ahead of Duca de Thaix once, however, when emerging victorious by half a length over C&D back in late-November. He hasn't been able to add a second win over fences in four starts since (also a one-time-winner over hurdles), but three of those outings were in Grade 1 company - including when nine lengths fourth to La Bague Au Roi in the Flogas last time - and he should appreciate the drop in both grade and trip here.
Mrs Lovett, a stablemate of Duca de Thaix, has plenty of experience over fences and she resumed winning ways in somewhat bloodless fashion at Thurles last time, the third win of her chasing career. That race fell apart, and she faces a higher calibre of (male) opponent here, but she clearly stays well and handles quick ground, so it wouldn't be a great surprise to see Davy Russell adopt more positive tactics than those employed by Jack Kennedy - who switches rides with Russell here - last time.
Benruben completes the field. A bumper winner on his stable debut at Leopardstown in December, he produced useful form from out of the blue last time on his second start over fences when a length second to Ex Patriot at Thurles last time. That doesn't look the strongest form, with Arvico Bleu departing late on when still in front, but it was a much more promising effort than Benruben had shown on his chasing debut when mid-field behind Cilaos Emery at Gowran.
Elsewhere on the card, Lamb Or Cod bids to stage a revival in a three-mile handicap chase on just his second start for Gordon Elliott, while Caravation - who ran Relegate close at Naas in December - looks the one to beat in the mares' maiden hurdle.
Sunday's meeting at Leopardstown is one of the lowest-profile afternoons at the Dublin venue. Irish Champion Hurdle also-ran Tombstone drops in grade in the Foxrock Cup Hurdle and should receive a suitable confidence booster as a result, while Aint Dunne Yet and Carter McKay - who are both open to improvement over fences - should have the beginners' chase between themselves.
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