The first racing weekend of the new year is a relatively quiet one, but there’s plenty to get stuck into nonetheless, including a Gigginstown runner fancied to restore a damaged reputation at Naas on Sunday.
Commander Of Fleet, Sunday 1.50 Naas @ 10/1
Gordon Elliott’s Fame And Glory gelding was a point-to-point winner in the spring before making an impressive rules bow with a bumper win at Punchestown, form that has worked out well. He returned this season with a straightforward hurdles win at Punchestown over 2m4½f and, for that, was strong in the betting going to Fairyhouse for the Royal Bond over two-miles last month.
That speed test didn’t suit and he was last of four runners. The form looks strong now however, with third home Aramon having scooted clear to win the Future Champions Novice Hurdle at Leopardstown over Christmas.
The return to two-and-a-half-miles now should suit Commander Of Fleet and, while unbeaten stablemate Battleoverdoyen will be popular in the betting, his easy Navan maiden hurdle win might have come in weakish company. More of a danger could be the Willie Mullins-trained Tornado Flyer, but he’s priced accordingly and Commander Of Fleet can outrun his odds.
Yusra, 5.45 Kempton Saturday @ 7/2
This filly by Invincible Spirit produced an improved performance last time when scoring over a mile at Chelmsford on her fifth career start. She has shown good consistency of effort in four AW runs and looks open to further progress now.
That pre-Christmas success was the first time Luke Morris steered and he can ensure she goes close in this follow-up attempt with another typically powerful ride.
There’s plenty decent C&D form among the opposition but Yusra is unexposed and should have a leading chance.
Straight Right, 2.15 Lingfield Saturday @ 7/4
Andrew Balding’s runner appeared something of an unlucky fifth in a Listed raced at Kempton in November when last spotted. He was denied a chance to challenge when it mattered and lost his hopes of victory in strides.
That was just his eighth start on the all-weather and, taking in three French wins (including at Listed level) he’s been beaten only three times in that sequence.
Compensation should await in this Conditions race, with in-form rider Rob Hornby to assist, where he’s clearly best on the ratings.