Quality guaranteed at Naas this Saturday with Cheltenham pointers aplenty
The BBA Ireland Limited Opera Hat Mares Steeplechase at Naas on Saturday has attracted entries of Grade 1 standard with seven mares being put forward for the two mile contest.
Henry de Bromhead ended Willie Mullins’ dominance in the listed race last year when saddling Magic Daze to victory over Dinoblue. This year de Bromhead relies on the 151-rated Maskada who triumphed at last year’s Cheltenham Festival when landing the Johnny Henderson Grand Annual. Maskada currently holds an entry for the Champion Chase at the Cheltenham Festival next month.
Willie Mullins, who won the race with Benie Des Dieux in 2018 and completed five in a row when Elimay won back to back renewals in 2022, is also responsible for a 151-rated entry in Allegorie De Vassy. The champion trainer could be doubly represented this weekend as Instit, who was second to Allegorie De Vassy on their penultimate starts in Clonmel, is also among the entries.
Saturday’s feature race at the County Kildare track has the potential to be one of the highlights of the weekend as trainer Gordon Elliott has included two of his high class chasing mares in the €25,000 contest.
The 149-rated Riviere D’etel, who came home 33-lengths clear of Allegorie De Vassy in the Grade 3 John & Chich Fowler Memorial Chase at Fairyhouse last time out, is looking to continue on her winning ways. Elliott’s other entry is the recent Thurles winner Harmonya Maker who won a Grade 2 novice chase at Thurles last time out.
Elliott commented: “It looks a very hot race on paper and I have entered two very smart mares. I think both of whom are versatile trip wise so I don’t think the drop back to two miles at Naas would be an issue for either of them.
“The timing of this race at the weekend fits in well with their programme and looks a lovely option. We’ll just see how they are later in the week in their work and decide what we’ll do but both are in good form at the moment anyway.”
Another fascinating inclusion in the BBA Ireland Limited Opera Hat Mares Steeplechase is the Con O’Keeffe-trained Silent Approach. O’Keeffe’s stable star has scored twice already this season, most notably when winning a Grade 2 novice chase at Cork in December and she has been placed in two grade races since, last time out finishing third behind Harmonya Maker.
The potential line-up for Saturday’s race is made up by the John Ryan-trained Fairyhill Run, who herself is a three-time winner over fences.
Elsewhere on Saturday’s card the meeting will begin with the A.M. Transport Supporting Kill GAA Rated Hurdle where some Triumph Hurdle entries could appear. The Willie Mullins-trained pair of Karia Des Blaises and Miss Manzor both hold Cheltenham entries, while Noel Meade’s Open To Question and the Denis Hogan-trained Bright Legend also appear among the acceptors for the Triumph Hurdle.
The RED MILLS EBF Auction Novice Hurdle also looks a competitive contest as Terence O’Brien is hoping to book his ticket to the Cheltenham Festival with Albert Bartlett entry Answer To Kayf. The Willie Mullins-trained Blizzard Of Oz and Captain Cody also look to be potential Cheltenham candidates if complementing their most recent wins.
Billaway will bid to become a five-time winner of the QuinnBet Hunters Steeplechase if taking his chance in Saturday’s renewal. The race looks set to offer racegoers a further Cheltenham Festival clue as some of the best Hunters Chase horses in Ireland hold entries.
Billaway is joined by stable companion Annamix, while Gordon Elliott has included two former Grade 1 winners in Battleoverdoyen and Hardline.