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2021 to begin with a bang at Naas Racecourse

Naas Racecourse will once again stage the opening Grade 1 race of the new year and the Lawlor's of Naas Novice Hurdle has attracted some of the most exciting young hurdlers among 35 initial entries. 

Only Willie Mullins and Gordon Elliott have managed to win the race since it was upgraded to Grade 1 status in 2015 and unsurprisingly Ireland's two leading trainers are to the fore for the January 10th feature at the Kildare venue. 

Elliott won this years renewal with none less than the still unbeaten Envoi Allen and in the same ownership of Cheveley Park Stud, Grade 1 winner Ballyadam could well plot a similar path. 

"The Lawlor's of Naas Novice Hurdle has served us well over the last couple of years and we'll be doing our best to start the year on a high by winning it again so we have entered plenty of our nice novices," Elliott said on Friday. 

"It's early days yet as a lot of the horses we have entered will have options over the Christmas period and we just need to weigh up our options and see what suits each horse. The Naas race could be one that suits a horse like Clondaw Secret and Fakiera is another horse going in the right direction and depending on how he gets on at Navan this might be an option for him. We'll be well represented anyway."

The first four home from the Royal Bond Novice Hurdle all hold entries, with Noel Meade's Cask Mate, the Willie Mullins-trained N'golo and Ted Walsh's Dewcup all likely to target a Grade 1 option after following home Ballyadam at Fairyhouse. 

On a day that has a strong local presence among the sponsors, Dewcup may bid to become a very local winner for Ted Walsh, based a stones throw away from Naas Racecourse. 

Dewcup has kept good company since winning twice at Punchestown earlier this season and the Lawlor's Of Naas Novice Hurdle is under strong consideration by the trainer.

"We'll have a look at the race at Naas and we'll look at Christmas as well but I like Naas and he could well go there," Walsh said. 

"The Lawlor's Of Naas Hurdle is two and a half miles at a great track and I definitely wouldn't rule it out. The ground will be a factor so we'll have to judge that closer to the time but I'm happy with the horse and how he has come out of his race at Fairyhouse." 

Gavin Cromwell's Gabynako bolted up to land a maiden hurdle at Naas last month and may return to the track for a crack at the top level, while the Emmet Mullins-trained Cape Gentleman is an intriguing entry after making a facile start over hurdles to add to his Irish Cesarewitch win during the summer. 

Eamonn McEvoy, racecourse manager, commented: "We are thrilled with the quality and quantity of the entries for the Grade 1 Lawlor's Of Naas Novice Hurdle. The roll of honour for this race speaks for itself and it comes at a good time of year in the calendar for trainers. Things will still be slightly different this year but it's very pleasing to still have the fantastic support of some local sponsors such as Lawlor's Hotel, Eastcoast Seafood, the Goulding family and the Rushe family as well as longstanding sponsors Adare Manor and the Irish Stallion Farms European Breeders Fund. We'll certainly make the most of the day and having a Grade 1 so early in the year will give us all a good boost." 

Speaking on behalf of Lawlor's of Naas, Jack Tierney added: "Lawlor's is entering its seventh consecutive year as sponsor of the Grade 1 Novice Hurdle. It will be a new experience for us to watch online - a new experience for a new year. We appreciate the support shown to Lawlor's by the team at Naas Racecourse, especially this year, and also the opportunity to continue the partnership. In 2021 we open a large extension to the existing hotel which will add state of the art conference facilities as well as a beautiful wedding venue with gardens. Our elegant Reception and Lobby will include a stand out new dining experience and Afternoon Tea Lounge. Guests will also enjoy 74 new air-conditioned 4 Star bedrooms so watch this space!" 

Click here to see full entries for the Grade 1 2021 Lawlor's Of Naas Novice Hurdle