A busy Easter Weekend of racing, with jumps and Flat action in equal measure, and the big race coming at Fairyhouse on Monday in the shape of the Irish Grand National.
Out first bet for the weekend is at Carlisle (15:25) on Saturday where Verona Opera is tipped to score for in-form trainer Stuart Crawford. He had a double at the track last weekend and looks to have found a useful opportunity for his mare now.
The King’s Theatre mare scored at Cartmel in June on her first start over fences and ran to within 10 lengths of Benie Des Dieux over this C&D in December in a Listed event.
That versatile rival made light work of the switch to hurdling, scoring in Grade 1 company at the Cheltenham Festival, and Verona Opera has plenty of scope to improve following a recent pipe-opener over hurdles and can land this handicap at odds of 6/1.
Over at Kempton, the Richard Hannon-trained Qaysar should take some stopping in the 7f Novice Stakes (15:05).
The Choisir colt created a favourable impression on his debut at Newmarket in October and confirmed that when scoring over C&D not long after. Hannon’s team are in good tune already this term and he can land the odds at 11/10 here.
Later on at Kempton, Mark Johnston’s Fire Fighting is worth some each-way money at 7/1 in the Rosebery Handicap (16:20).
He came from the clouds to score last time at Lingfield, having been stone last on the turn in. He’s gone up 2lb and does have a wide draw to overcome, but should not be underestimated for a yard with a 23 per cent strike-rate of late.
At Fairyhouse on Sunday it is worth tuning in for the Grade 1 Mares’ Novice Hurdle Championship Final (14:50) to see Cheltenham winner Laurina strutting her stuff. She’s an odds-on favourite but could make up into a Champion Hurdle contender.
On to the Irish National on Monday (17:00) and it could prove wise to follow 9/1 chance Bellshill for Willie Mullins.
Class outed in this race a year ago, when Our Duke turned it into a procession, and Bellshill, winner of the Grade 3 Bobbyjo Chase at the track recently, could have too many guns for his rivals, with no worries on jumping or fitness following that recent track success.
With his trainer desperate to land the 270,000 euros first prize and close the gap on Gordon Elliott in the Irish trainers’ race, he looks a big player at Fairyhouse.
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