Death Duty in Naas mix
NAAS Racecourse will stage Ireland's first Grade One race of the new year with nine horses, including the highly touted Death Duty, standing their ground for the Lawlors Hotel Novice Hurdle on Sunday.
Gordon Elliott's charge impressed again at Navan last month in Grade Two company and having bypassed the busy Christmas period and Leopardstown's four-day meeting, the six-year-old could make the next step up for Gigginstown House Stud on Sunday in the two and a half mile.
Upgraded to Grade One status for the first time in 2015, Willie Mullins has won the last three renewals of the race which was formerly known as the Slaney Hurdle and he has included the exciting Augusta Kate, while Noel Meade's improving Bel Ami De Sivola was left in the race by Noel Meade.
A tilt at Grade One level for Any Second Now was ruled out by trainer Ted Walsh and the Grand National winning handler will give his charge a bit more time and look for a more modest contest for his recent 66/1 debutant winner. Walsh admits that options are limited but that Naas this weekend may have been too big an ask.
"He's only had the one run so we'll try and pick a nice stepping-stone somewhere for him. We'll look for something in the next couple of weeks. There isn't a lot for a horse like him. There is actually no winners-of-one races this side of Cheltenham. He'll have to run in either a Listed or Graded novice race."
Any Second Now's owner JP McManus may still be represented in the Grade One with Stand Up And Fight, who was third behind Death Duty last time for Enda Bolger.
Along with Death Duty, trainer Gordon Elliott has also left in Blood Crazed Tiger and Runfordave and potential field is completed by the Willie Mullins-trained duo of Asthuria and Turcagua and the Mouse Morris-trained maiden Vinalhaven.
Yorkhill, who is priced at just 7/4 with Betfair to win at the Cheltenham Festival in March, may have his second start over fences at Naas on Sunday.
Last season's Neptune Investments Novices' Hurdle winner went on to score at Aintree as well before only managing to finish fourth behind Don't Touch It in the Herald Champion Novice Hurdle at the Punchestown Festvial but he put that run behind him on his seasonal debut and first run over fences when easily recording a 14-length win at Fairyhouse last month.
Yorkhill is one of 10 entries for the two-mile novice chase at the Kildare venue in which American Tom and Royal Caviar are also entered for the champion trainer, Willie Mullins.
Meanwhile, point to point enthusiasts may be treated to a race to remember at Aghabullogue on Saturday as the Open race at the County Cork venue features some familiar names.
Sir Des Champs and On His Own, second in the Cheltenham Gold Cup's of 2013 and 2014 respectively are among the entries alongside First Lieutenant.
Mouse Morris now trains Sir Des Champs for Gigginstown and First Lieutenant is still owned by the champion owner also, while On His Own will race in the colours of Patrick Mullins having previously been owned by Graham and Andrea Wylie.