Stormy Ireland has been in fine form against her own sex this season, so looks well worth a wager to follow-up now into open company for the 2m Grade 3 Limestone Lad Hurdle at Naas on Sunday (13:40).
Trained by Willie Mullins, who has won two of the last four renewals, this Sullivan Bloodstock owned six-year-old brings leading form claims into the race.
Stormy Ireland is a front-runner who has proved too good for her fellow mares in two starts so far this term.
During last season, the daughter of Motivator ran a string of fine races in defeat – chasing home Espoir D’Allen, Laurina, Roksana and Benie Des Dieux. Three of those horses won Grade 1 races.
Stormy Ireland landed a Listed contest at Punchestown on reappearance when making all over 2m 2f and beating Black Tears by a cosy four lengths.
She then followed-up in a Grade 3 at Leopardstown over 2m 4f after Christmas where the opposition was well strung out in-behind. Stormy Ireland’s style means dropping down in distance here is no problem.
Mullins saddles two other Limestone Lad Hurdle hopes in Franco De Port, who disappointed last time out, and Sutton Place – back on the track after two years out.
Stormy Ireland is thriving though, so she looks a worthy 4/7 favourite with BetVictor to land this en route to another potential crack at the Mares’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival.
Mengli Khan may be the main danger to her in this as he was a Grade 1 winning novice hurdle for owners Gigginstown House Stud and trainer Gordon Elliott.
He is 14/1 with Betfair to bounce back after a 10-race winless run and not really firing as a chaser.
Carefully Selected out to qualify for National Hunt Chase tilt
National Hunt Chase ante post favourite Carefully Selected still needs to qualify for his seasonal target, but can do that in the 3m Grade 3 over fences for novices (14:10).
Also trained by Mullins, the eight-year-old son of Well Chosen is two from two in this sphere.
This Irish point winner went on to be a very smart bumper performer who placed in Grade 1s at Cheltenham and then the Punchestown Festival.
Carefully Selected then had just two hurdle starts last season. After winning a Limerick maiden, he was pitched straight in at the highest level back at Punchestown and ran a fine third to Minella Indo.
He beat old hurdles rival Lord Schnitzel on chase debut at Fairyhouse in November despite a mistake two out.
Carefully Selected showed the benefit of that when following-up in the Grade 3 Killiney Novice Chase at Punchestown where he made all.
As he bolted up by 24 lengths from Cheltenham Festival winner City Island, he is a serious contender for honours at that prestigious British jumps meeting in March.
Although Carefully Selected carries a 6lb penalty for that win, he needs to be winning this despite giving weight all-round to justify his reputation.
He is 8/13 with William Hill to complete the hat-trick over fences here.
The danger is Ronald Pump, who was a gallant runner-up in the 2m 4f Grade 1 Drinmore Novice Chase at Fairyhouse on his penultimate start.
Now stepped up in trip by trainer Matthew Smith, he had the stamina for this distance over hurdles.
Ronald Pump is the one most likely to take advantage at 2/1 with Coral in the event that Carefully Selected fails to fire. It is double figure prices about the four other horses set to line-up.
The Big Getaway worth another go on Limestone Lad Hurdle day
In the 2m 3f maiden hurdle (14:40), The Big Getaway looks sure to come on for his hurdles debut when fourth and bumping into some useful sorts.
Another trained by Closutton maestro Mullins, the six-year-old is an Irish point winner with good bumper form.
The Big Getaway tried to give subsequent Grade 1 winning novice hurdler Fiddlerontheroof 7lb on his bow under Rules at Navan.
He was only beaten by 1 1/4 lengths and, given what the winner has achieved since, he commands a ton of respect on that run.
This Getaway gelding won the second of two subsequent Punchestown bumpers and was then sent hurdling by connections.
Unfortunately, he made a bad blunder at the final flight at Leopardstown on debut in this sphere when going well and all chance of winning went with it.
As The Big Getaway got impeded four out, it may well be worth forgiving him that mistake.
He is sure to have learned plenty from his hurdles bow and the yard have seen horses come on for runs this season.
There is also some substance to the form of the winner, Cobbler’s Way. He was previously runner-up to Andy Dufresne who has since landed the Grade 2 Moscow Flyer Novice Hurdle – also at Punchestown.
That reads well in the contest of this maiden event. If making the desired improvement, then The Big Getaway gets another chance at 1/2 with Betfred to show what he can do as part.
He is part of a Mullins Sunday treble on Limestone Lad Hurdle day at Naas with the stable going into the weekend on a 30 per cent strike rate.