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Sunday Irish Racing Tips: J P McManus holds strong hand in Leinster National

With plenty of rain forecast in Ireland this weekend, conditions look sure to be testing at Naas on Sunday for the Baroneracing.com Leinster National (16:40) and that might make things tough for likely favourite and top weight Franco De Port.

A class act on his day, Willie Mullins’ charger kept some good company last season, not least when beating Darver Star in a Grade 1 contest and finishing a good second to Energumene at the Dublin Racing Festival.

It hasn’t all been plain sailing this term as he’s finished well held behind Allaho and Galvin but he signalled a welcome return to form when second to Longhouse Poet on handicap debut off a mark off 153 at Gowran last time.

The handicapper has jacked Franco De Port up another 5lb for that good effort, which means he’ll have to lug a hefty weight around in attritional conditions and my thinking is he may struggle to concede 19lb to Champagne Platinum.

EXC1.1

Trainer: Enda Bolger, Ireland
Jockey: M. P. Walsh
Age: 8
Weight: 10st 7lbs
OR: 139

Formerly with Nicky Henderson, the J P McManus-owned gelding rather lost his way towards the end of last season but has been revitalised by a move to the Enda Bolger yard and has proved better than ever on his last couple of starts.

A winner of a beginners chase at Navan in January, Champagne Platinum then confirmed that form when a good second to Death Duty over 3m4f in the Grand National Trial at Punchestown on his most recent start.

Clearly well at home when conditions place the emphasis firmly on stamina, the more rain that falls at Naas the better for this one, and if things become a real slog late on, he’ll be sticking to his task while plenty around are crying enough.

Last year’s winner worth a saver

While Champagne Platinum is the main selection in the race, I can’t resist a saver on last year’s winner Scoir Mear, who appears to have been targeted primarily at the race once more, with all his runs coming over hurdles this season.

He’s no spring chicken at the age of 12 but is running off mark just 3lb higher than when taking this contest last season, and his most recent run definitely hinted at a return to something like his best form.

As with owner-mate Champagne Platinum, there are no doubts whatsoever where stamina is concerned, and Scoir Mear will be bang there if reproducing the form that victory here last season.

EXC1.1

Trainer: Thomas Mullins, Ireland
Jockey: S. D. Torrens
Age: 12
Weight: 10st 6lbs
OR: 138

Novice hurdle rematch

The Grade 3 Bar One Racing Kingsfurze Novice Hurdle (14:20) is an interesting supporting contest and features a fascinating rematch between the 1-2 from a listed hurdle at Punchestown last time.

Slip Of The Tongue outpointed Deploy The Getaway that day despite making a horlicks of the last and I’m taking him to confirm that form this time around.

Ridden patiently by the excellent Mark Walsh, Slip Of The Tongue came through to wrestle the lead from the strong-travelling Deploy The Getaway at the last, and despite making a bad mistake there, was always doing enough to hold the runner-up on the run to the line.

The imposition of a 4lb penalty for that win will likely ensure that his big rival is sent off favourite this time around, which may enable us to get a little value on the selection.

I’m not convinced that Deploy The Getaway really saw things out in testing conditions at Punchestown and I’m hoping that Slip Of The Tongue will prove too strong once again.

EXC1.1

Trainer: Padraig Roche, Ireland
Jockey: M. P. Walsh
Age: 5
Weight: 11st 5lbs
OR:

Mi Lighthouse to show the way

Over at Limerick, the Grade 3 Irish Wire Products EBF Shannon Spray Mares Novice Hurdle (13:55) is the feature event, and I’m taking Mi Lighthouse to follow up her recent wide-margin success at this track.

Travelling really strongly that day, Willie Mullins’ mare was no doubt helped by stable companion La Prima Donna coming down at the last, but the likelihood is she would still have come out on top anyway.

She’s not likely to have things all her way here, however, with the likes of Brampton Belle and Limerick Lace in opposition.

Mi Lighthouse actually finished second to Brampton Belle on hurdling debut, but I’m confident she can turn the tables on that rival, particularly as she now has more experience on her side.

It could be that Limerick Lace is a bigger danger, as she comes here on the back of a cosy win at Punchestown last time. She seemed well at home with the emphasis on stamina there and won’t be inconvenienced by the step up in trip.

EXC1.1

Trainer: W. P. Mullins, Ireland
Jockey: Jack Foley
Age: 8
Weight: 10st 13lbs
OR:

As this is my last column before Cheltenham, I thought it worth pointing out what I’ve got in store for readers next week. While your Festival needs will be covered by the excellent stable of writers on betting.betfair, I’ll be here on all four days taking a look at the evening all-weather meetings.

All that remains for me to say is good luck on the week and let’s hope we have plenty of winners along the way!

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