14:50 Fairyhouse

Only the fullness of time will dictate whether the decision to leave THEDEVILSCOACHMAN (NAP) (best price 15-8) on home soil and give the Cheltenham Festival a miss was the right one and today’s contest will provide the first answer to that question. 

Not quite up to matching the likes of Appreciate It and Co in the big Grade 1 at Leopardstown’s Christmas fixture, Noel Meade’s gelding had his sights lowered appreciably next time at Navan and in race that panned out perfectly for his run style, he ended up ceasing the opportunity with both hands. Up to listed class a month later, the son of Elusive Pimpernel once again took on a small, but select field, and despite a slow gallop, he exhibited his touch of class in quickening up smartly to seal the deal in the final quarter of a mile. At that point, the five-year-old was as low as 12-1 in the ante-post markets for the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle and given the relative lack of strength in depth in that category this season, it would have made perfect sense for him to come over and have a crack at the elite again – especially on drying ground. However, connections pulled the plug on that project with a view to come here for slightly easier pickings and with a decent pace likely to be forthcoming courtesy of Razzle Dazzle Girl, Echoes In Rain and Grand Bornand in the line-up, the future chasing star can prove that staying on home soil was an inspired choice.

Thedevilscoachman - 2pts @ 15/8

15:50 Fairyhouse

Probably the best race on the card in terms of strength-in-depth and potential for the future and its one where GRAND PARADIS (best price 3-1) is fancied to shine.

A winner of a bumper here back in November, the grey gelding has been brought along nicely by connections since and following an opening defeat going left-handed at Naas on hurdles debut, he’s really begun to flourish racing back in a clockwise direction. Fitted with a tongue-tie for the first time on his return to the Co Meath venue two months ago, the son of Martaline impressed with the way he travelled throughout the two-mile affair and he ultimately went on to make light work of subsequent winners Grand Bornand and The Priests Leap. Pitched in against Graded opposition for the first time and up in trip at Thurles for his latest encounter, Denise Foster’s inmate took his game to a whole new level in dishing out a proper beating to some above-average sorts and with the time figure backing up the visual impression of the display, he thoroughly deserves to be given the chance to see what he can do on an even bigger stage.

Of the rest, DECIMATION (best price 25-1) has form that isn’t quite at this level just yet, but that doesn’t mean to say he should be totally dismissed and he’s worth a round of drinks to see whether he can make the grade.

Runner-up on his first three starts. Including a couple that come out well on the speed figures, Henry De Bromhead’s gelding finally gained his due rewards for his consistency when landing short odds at Down Royal last time out. Despite having enough speed for two miles, he’s shaped as though a step up in trip won’t do him any harm and with today’s better ground also likely to suit this good-looking son of Milan, he looks set to easily outrun his morning odds.

Grand Paradis - 1pt @ 3/1Non Runner
Decimation - 0.5pts e/w @ 25/1

17:00 Fairyhouse

ANDY DUFRESNE (best price 10-3) has been given a little bit of the kid-glove treatment by connections this season, but now’s the chance for Denise Foster’s gelding to really show what he’s worth and after a 56-day break, there can’t be any cause for excuses if he doesn’t deliver. 

Similar to his namesake, he has always been a bit of a silky-smooth character, and on his day, he’s shown the sort of swagger which very much suggests he’s a proper Grade 1 horse in the making. The only time, however, he did go toe-to-toe with the very best, he got beaten up by the mighty Monkfish in the Flogas Novices’ Chase at Leopardstown last time out, but as we saw as Cheltenham, it’s not every day of the week, the son of Doyen is going to be bumping into a bully-boy of that magnitude. That said, he still managed to finish ahead of one of today’s chief rivals, Asterion Follonges, and considering that horse has endured a hard race at Cheltenham since and has previously fallen twice, it makes little sense why the seven-year-old is three times the price than the Willie Mullins-trained favourite. Additionally, today’s better conditions might also suit him a little more favourably than the testing winter ground he’s been facing and at top price 10-3, he has to be considered at one of the best bets on the card.

Andy Dufresne - 1pt @ 10/3