After a bookie bashing Christmas, punters are looking to recharge their batteries and start the New Year off on a high over the first weekend fixtures of 2019.
The headline act on Saturday is at Sandown where the Willie Mullins trained Laurina is the short-priced favourite in the Unibet Mares’ Hurdle (Listed).
The French recruit swept all before her against her own sex last season, an easy winner in the Dawn Run at the Cheltenham Festival in March was followed up by Grade 1 honours at Fairyhouse next time out in April.
Connections have been waiting for the ground to turn softer all season, which she gets here, and it would be disappointing were she unable to stamp her authority over this vastly inferior four-runner field.
Sensulano has progressed nicely in two starts this term, winning at Ascot and Cheltenham, while Got Away may prove happier back over hurdles after pulling up at Carlisle last month.
The Closutton trainer has made no secret of the high regard in which he holds the six year old and she is already being compared to former Champion Hurdle winner Annie Power and the multiple Festival winner Quevega,
Laurina is potentially top class and cannot be opposed, simply sit back and watch!
At Wincanton Tedham is a very interesting recruit to the handicapping sphere for Jonjo O Neill having caught the eye when third in a big-field bumper at Warwick in April and shaping well in all 3 starts over hurdles, keeping on for second to Getaway Trump at Exeter on his latest outing.
This step up in trip to 2 miles 5f for this Lengthen The Odds With BetVictor Handicap Hurdle is sure to suit and there has already been a significant market move for the 125 rated five year old having opened up at 7/1, he has halved in price to 7/2.
The opening Women’s Little Christmas Lunch Rated Novice Hurdle at Cork looks like a cracking race with the in-form Noel Meade trained Laverteen heading the market having gotten off the mark on his return over C&D back in November.
Joseph O Brien fields the promising Ballyneety who made a successful hurdling debut at Gowran and started a short-priced favourite at Punchestown but finished last after weakening quickly from the final flight. He wears a hood for the first time today.
The prolific recent winner Court Maid is another who has to be respected, the Tom Mullins’ mare won over 2m4f here then a 3m Punchestown handicap although she may be at her best over further than this. The softer it gets the better for her and she may just prove the value bet here.
On Sunday all roads lead to Naas where a cracking version of the Lawlor’s Of Naas Novice Hurdle (Grade 1) takes center stage.
Willie Mullins has won four of the last five of these and has three entered this time. Ruby Walsh chooses to ride Tornado Flyer, a Grade 1-winning bumper performer, who he steered to victory on his hurdling debut over this trip at Punchestown and with conditions in his favour he looks the one to beat.
He is joined at the top of the market by the unbeaten Battleoverdoyen who demolished the opposition at Navan over 2m on his hurdling debut and everything about that performance suggested he would be more at home stepping up in trip.
The claims of Commander Of Fleet who lost his unbeaten record in the Grade 1 Royal Bond at Fairyhouse should not be discounted lightly as Aramon, who finished just in front of him, easily won the Future Champions at Leopardstown last week. The Gordon Elliott trained five year old may be the value each way option for punters unwilling to take short prices on the market leaders
Come To Me and Lone Wolf both have the potential for further improvement following their maiden hurdle successes last month.