Rising stars set for €100,000 Lawlor’s Of Naas Novice Hurdle
Entries for the Grade 1 Lawlor’s Of Naas Novice Hurdle were revealed today with 20 horses in contention for the richest renewal of the 2m4f contest.
Lawlor’s Of Naas, the landmark hotel in the middle of Kildare’s county town, has recently undergone a magnificent makeover and that upgrade has been matched with a hike in prize money for Naas Racecourse’s feature jumps race on January 8.
Bob Olinger, Envoi Allen, Bellshill and Rule The World are just a selection of the leading novice hurdlers to have triumphed in the early January showpiece in recent years and last year’s winning trainer, Gordon Elliott supplies arguably the strongest hand.
Elliott won the Lawlor’s Of Naas Novice Hurdle last season with Ginto, has landed three of the last four renewals and four of the last six, and this year, his six-strong team is headed by the Robcour-owned duo of Absolute Notions and recent Grade 1 runner-up Irish Point.
Willie Mullins is an eight-time winner of the Lawlor’s Of Naas Novice Hurdle but hasn’t saddled the victor since Next Destination prevailed in 2018 – almost a drought in Irish Grade 1 terms for the perennial champion trainer. Champ Kiely, Gaelic Warrior, Grangeclare West, Il Etait Temps, Intranet and Spanish Harlem give the Closutton maestro plenty of options.
Joseph O’Brien continues to make a significant impact on the National Hunt season despite a reduced string of horses to go jumping and the Carriganóg Racing boss is strongly considering 2023’s opening Grade 1 race for Dawn Rising.
Third in a Galway maiden hurdle behind Champ Kiely in July, in what was his first racecourse appearance in two years, Dawn Rising was extremely impressive when winning at Listowel before then stamping his authority in Grade 3 company by lowering the colours of highly-touted novice American Mike in convincing fashion.
Dawn Rising had some impressive form on the Flat when trained by O’Brien’s father Aidan and is from a talented family being a full-brother to Irish Derby winner Sovereign and the Grade 1 runner-up Triplicate, who O’Brien also trained for owner JP McManus.
O’Brien said today: “JP bought Dawn Rising from Ballydoyle and his brother had done well for us in the past and he seems to have taken to hurdling well.
“He stays well and has been a progressive horse, coming forward for each run this year. His run in Galway was his first run in a long while so he came on a lot for that and has improved every race since.”
The Piltown-based conditioner added: “We were delighted with his performance in Navan. He stayed on well and I think he might even stay further than two and a half miles in the future.
“He’s been well since and given he’s taken a step forward so far this year with each run, hopefully he can continue to do that.”
JP McManus has yet to land this Grade 1 prize but in addition to the aforementioned Intranet and Dawn Rising, he could also be represented by the likes of Inothewayurthinkin, trained by Gavin Cromwell, and Inthepocket, whose preparations are overseen by Henry de Bromhead.
One of the most heartwarming stories of 2023 would be written if Oliver McKiernan could land the spoils with the fascinating Kalanisi Star.
McKiernan trains in Rathcoole, just a short spin from Naas Racecourse, and in the five-year-old son of Kalanisi, he could well have a horse to bring him back to the very top level.
McKiernan’s impressive novice was a 16-length winner of a bumper last season before opening his account over hurdles at Gowran Park last month.
It is just over a year since Kalanisi Star won his point-to-point at Corbeagh House and in doing so defeated Rare Edition, a horse now unbeaten in three outings for Charlie Longsdon.
“I thought if the ground was soft in Naas, he’d probably run there though he does have an entry at Christmas as well and he’ll do one or the other,” McKiernan said.
“The two and a half miles shouldn’t bother him. He wouldn’t have much experience in that kind of a field but the trip would suit.”
The Cavan native last won a Grade 1 with talented chaser Follow The Plan at the 2012 Aintree Grand National meeting – the stable legend recorded all three of the trainer’s top-flight triumphs - but has plenty to be excited about now.
“He appears to be a relaxed horse and things seem to come easy to him,” McKiernan continued. “You’d hope that he has more improvement in him given his inexperience.
“He wouldn’t be a horse you’d be over the moon with looking at him on the gallop at home but I see other ones that would be an awful lot sharper but they wouldn’t be as good as him when they go to the racecourse.
“You’d love to have a runner in a Grade 1 at your local track and I always like to have a winner in Naas but we’ll make a decision closer to Christmas on what we think will suit best.”
Joyeux Machin recently won the first division of a maiden hurdle at Fairyhouse in a much quicker time than Facile Vega won the second division of the race and is an intriguing entry for Paul Nolan, while Noel Meade’s Affordale Fury was still in contention when falling at Navan leaving Dawn Rising to pick up the pieces and is another who would be a strong contender for honours.
Dee Nix, Lawlor’s Of Naas chief executive said: “We're thrilled to be involved in the Lawlor's of Naas Grade 1 Novice Hurdle Race Day for the eight year running. The whole team at Lawlor's are looking forward to welcoming race goers pre and post racing to our eclectic Lobby and wonderful new Vi's Restaurant for afternoon tea, cocktails and dinner.
Eamonn McEvoy, Naas Racecourse general manager add: “We are delighted with the entry for the Grade 1 Lawlor’s Of Naas Hurdle. It would be hard not be excited with the calibre of young potentially top class hurdlers in the field. Thank you to the owners and trainers that continue to support the race with such strong entries and we are really look forward to an exciting renewal.
“The association between Lawlor’s Of Naas and Naas Racecourse stems back a long way. They are two of the oldest businesses in the town and it’s an association that we are very proud of. Jack Tierney has done the most amazing job on the new extension at the hotel, people will be blown away when they see it. It’s a truly brilliant town centre hotel.”
For further information please contact Niamh Byrne, Naas Racecourse, +353 (0)45 89 7391 or [email protected]