Yes, the Cheltenham festival has come and gone for 2009 but the business of trying to find winners must go on regardless and this Saturday, the main meeting cross-channel is at Uttoxoter with the John Smith’s Midlands Grand National occupying centre stage.

Howard Johnson didn’t experience the best of luck at Cheltenham this week and perhaps he will collect this extended four mile one furlong contest with Companero.

A former Irish point-to-pointer, Companero has always hinted that he’s a formidable long-distance chaser and he recorded three consecutive victories over fences until ‘the wheels came off the bike’ on his most recent start. Whilst he’s a lot better than the bare form of that third-placed effort indicates, Companero appears quite well-treated here on 10-13 and he’s selected to account for Morgan Be.

Warsaw Pact should complete a quick hat-trick for trainer Philip Hobbs by getting the better of Mumbles Head in the John Smith’s Hucknall Constitutional Club Handicap Hurdle and Postmaster should attain due reward for his consistency by disposing of Fairyland in the JC Acousitics 10 Year Anniversary Novices’ Handicap Hurdle.

The Channel 4 cameras will additionally be positioned at Lingfield on Saturday for just one all-weather race. The event in question is the Over £1000 In Free Bets Handicap and this three-year-olds’ only contest looks set to primarily concern Dubai Storming.

This son of Storming Home has already won twice on the all-weather so far this season and Ed Dunlop’s charge is taken to continue on his merry way here at the expense of Statue Book.

Additionally, there’s an extremely busy domestic programme over the weekend with a two-day Limerick fixture whilst there’s additionally racing at Naas on Saturday and Navan on Sunday.


At Naas’ Saturday meeting which was due to take place weekend only for snow to force its postponement, the Paul Nolan-trained Joncol stands out in the BBA Ireland Opera Hat Novice Chase.

The Paul Nolan-trained gelding gamely won a Punchestown beginners chase in December and he made the step up to Grade 2 level by easily beating Good Fella in the Woodlands Park 100 Nas Riogh Novice Chase over this same course and two and a half mile distance on February 22nd. In short, the giant-sized Joncol seems to be one of the very best novice chasers in the country and he should continue on his merry way here at the expense of the entire horse Financial Reward.

Corskeagh Royale should make the most of a drop down in class to collect the Novice Hurdle.

The Noel Meade-trained gelding, who did after all have the class to finish second to Cousin Vinny in last season’s Grade 1 Cheltenham festival bumper, finished a creditable fourth to Roberto Goldback in a two and a half mile Grade 2 novice hurdle at Leopardstown in late January. Corskeagh Royale may well be more at home over two miles here and the son of Beneficial is taken to deny Smoking Aces.

Philip Rothwell’s admirably-consistent In The Haven, off a mark of 109, will prove extremely difficult to beat in the Johnstown Handicap Hurdle whilst the closing Rockview (Q.R.) INH Flat Race is best left to either Logan’s Manor or Mountain Time.


On Saturday at Limerick, the Henry de Bromhead-trained Royal Choice should go close in the Munster Supporters Club Mares Maiden Hurdle.

This daughter of King’s Theatre galloped her rivals into the ground to win a Dromahane mares’ maiden point-to-point with Butlerstown amateur Paul Power in November and she then made an excellent start to her track career by finishing third in a two and half mile maiden hurdle at Tramore on New Year’s Day. It could happen that the galloping right-handed track will play to Royal Choice’s strengths and she’s therefore taken to open her track account by beating Dolly Hall.

The Thirsty Bricky appears quite well-treated on a mark of 92 in the Racing In Red Handicap Hurdle.

This JD Moore-trained gelding was amateur-ridden when staying on from off the pace to finish second to The Dashing Doctor in a two mile six furlong handicap hurdle over this same course and distance on February 1st. The Thirsty Bricky was raised three lbs for that display and he’s recommended to outpoint Tooman Lane here.

Grange Alainn could well vindicate the promise of two recent fine third-placed efforts by getting the better of Jim The Falcon in the St Patricks Day (C & G) Maiden Hurdle whilst Sainte Baronne is clearly the one for the ‘getting-out stakes’ in the Rockview (Q.R.) Mares INH Flat Race.

At Limerick on Sunday, Moskova cannot be realistically opposed in the Grade 3 European Breeders Fund Dawn Run Mares Novice Chase.

This Paul Nolan-trained grey is equally competent both over hurdles and fences and the six-year-old effortlessly won a Grade 3 two and a half mile mares’ novice chase on her most recent foray at Thurles on January 29th. The extra two furlongs of this particular race shouldn’t unduly concern Moskova and she’s taken to see off Here Comes Sally.

Square Sphere is the clear class act in the Dawn Omega Milk European Breeders Fund Mares Novice Hurdle.

This Robert Tyner-trained daughter of Oscar won a point-to-point, bumper and a maiden hurdle late last year before she was beaten less than a half-length into third place by Rocco’s Hall in a three-mile handicap hurdle at Leopardstown’s Christmas meeting. That was however just Square Sphere’s fifth career start altogether, she seems to be on an upward trajectory and it will come as a major surprise if she doesn’t return to the coveted number one slot here at the expense of Earth Mother.


Meanwhile, Knock On The Head looks set to triumph in the featured Irish Stallion Farms European Breeders Fund Novice Handicap Chase at Navan on Sunday.

The Joe Crowley-trained seven-year-old never even remotely came out of second gear when justifying favouritism with Mark Walsh in a two and a half mile handicap chase at Gowran Park on February 14th. It wasn’t altogether surprising then that Knock On The Head was raised a whopping 14 lbs for that display to a new mark of 124. Whilst that’s a mammoth increase in ratings, it still shouldn’t be enough to stop Knock On The Head and he’s likely to excel from Plaisir d’Estruval.

So often the bridesmaid, Mag Mullins’ Bannow Rose should get a deserved turn by disposing of Lismakeery in the N.I. Hospice Maiden Hurdle whilst Deutschland should complete a memorable week for handler Willie Mullins by proving marginally superior to Fantoche in the Kells Novice Chase.