Naas is the place for Cheltenham clues this weekend
The Naas fixture that produced three Cheltenham Festival winners last year could once again provide plenty of clues this Saturday as the Cheltenham Festival heroine Elimay will bid to land the BBA Ireland Limited Opera Hat Mares Chase for a third consecutive year.
Champion trainer Willie Mullins is looking to win the race for a sixth consecutive year and doubles up with another JP McManus-owned runner, Dinoblue, as seven are declared for the weekend highlight.
Patrick Mullins, assistant trainer to his father Willie, commented: "Elimay had a slight setback over the winter so it is great to have her back out and going before Cheltenham. This is not going to be easy for her giving away all the penalties.
"Dinoblue is stepping up against more experienced mares but she is getting all of the allowances and we'd like to think she can take advantage of all the weight she is receiving."
Magic Daze, a Punchestown Festival winner last season for Henry de Bromhead, adds further intrigue to the two-mile contest which carries the long-standing support of sponsors BBA Ireland.
Ready to have just her second start of the campaign, Elimay is certainly the star attraction as connections eye a return to the Cheltenham Festival where she won the Paddy Power Mares Chase last season.
A small but very select field of runners go to post for the Naas Farm Machinery Hunters Chase as the Mullins-trained Billaway looks to win the prestigious Hunters Chase for a fourth year on the bounce.
Naas Farm Machinery are welcomed to Naas Racecourse this weekend as first time sponsors and the Cheltenham Festival winner Billaway is attempting to complete a rare feat of winning the same race for four consecutive years.
Billaway used this race as the perfect stepping stone to Cheltenham last season but his biggest opposition this Saturday may come from a familiar face as Annamix makes his return to the track after being campaigned in Point to Point’s earlier this winter.
Patrick Mullins will once again ride Billaway on Saturday.
The champion amateur said: "Billaway has won this race the last three years and we are putting a tongue tie on him for the first time. We are expecting a big improvement from his first run which he normally has in him.
"Jamie Codd rides Annamix in the same race," continued Mullins. "We are trying to qualify him for the Aintree Foxhunters so hopefully he can finish in the first three on Saturday."
Dinny Lacey is another classy type who began this season in a Point to Point, while Grange Island and Le Malin represent shrewd connections.
Sponsors Naas Farm Machinery will host their open day this Saturday and racegoers can visit them just minutes from the racecourse between 11am-7pm.
The opening Jim Nolan Transport Supporting Kill GAA Rated Novice Hurdle was another race that threw up a Cheltenham Festival winner last season.
The Padraig Roche-trained Brazil scored here before triumphing in the Cotswolds and three of Saturday’s declarations already hold Cheltenham entries in the Triumph Hurdle.
The Gordon Elliott-trained Jazzy Matty, Andrew Slattery’s Sir Allen and the Denis Hogan-trained Almuhit will all be looking to book their ticket with a win in the opener at 1.05pm.
On a busy sporting weekend, Naas Racecourse will have live sport throughout the enclosures, including coverage of Ireland v France in the Six Nations.