THE NAP IS SET IN STONE: Shamrock thinks the quality beginners’ chase at Punchestown today is one for Davy Russell’s locker. His mount’s massive hurdles rating suggests the nap is set in stone.

It could be Noel Meade’s day. At least he’s usually among the winners at Punchestown this afternoon and, since he currently has a win-and place strike rate of 53%, we can reckon on him getting involved.

If his grey Sword Of Destiny can reproduce his Gowran bumper form, he should win the stayers’ maiden (2.45), a race in which Meade has had three placed out of six for one win.

He has an identical record in the beginners’ chase (4.25) but punters know there is a question mark over Jim Bowie: why, when backed in to 7-2 and with every chance, did he ‘go out like a light’ two out on his fencing debut a fortnight ago?

I’m happy with these answers: he was having his first run back and he was ridden by a 7lb claimer. In fact, I think the money that day boosts his cause today, in that he must have been doing something at home to warrant being supported despite his absence from the track and the trainer putting a boy on board.

But hold your horses. Just look at the quality here! We’ve got Cooldine’s brother, Fists Of Fury, and Dessie Hughes’s classy hurdler, Stonemaster, both likely to make cracking chasers, and you can’t leave out Magnum Force.

On official hurdles ratings, it’s 148 Stonemaster, 133 Fists of Fury, 134 On The Way Out, but I include Magnum Force (130) in my summing up because he’s already been over fences.

We are left in the capable hands of Davy Russell. He seems to prefer one Gigginstown horse, Stonemaster – no doubt looking at those ratings – over another, Fists Of Fury. Granted safe rounds, we’ll be taking both out of the race, I’m sure.

But, hunting up some big odds, I’ll also have an old punt each way Jim Bowie at the 14.5 offers I see on Betdaq this morning.

If you thought that contest had some craic, officially the Listed mares’ hurdle (3.20), won last year by Hatton’s Grace third and Boyne winner, Voler La Vedette, is the race of the day.

It’s not too soon to be thinking of Cheltenham, so what might we add as horses to follow to the list we started with the beginners’ chase?

The obvious one is Elyaadi, though today’s 2m 2f looks a bit short for the mare after her Flat runs in the marathon Queen Alexandra and the French Gold Cup, and she was beaten eight lengths in this race last year.

Chaperoned has run really well in Graded juvenile hurdles but this is asking a lot of a four-year-old. I’ll settle for Dazzling Susie, who likes the course, and for whom Davy Russell seems to have made another wise choice.

NAP: Stonemaster (4.25 Punchestown)
NEXT BEST: Sword Of Destiny (2.45)
OUTSIDER: Jim Bowie (4.25 Punchestown)
DAQ TRIO: Sword Of Destiny (2.45), Dazzling Susie (3.20), Stonemaster (4.25), all at Punchestown.

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