SHAMROCK Sat: It might be nearly the eve of the Cheltenham Festival, but there’s still time to swell your betting bank for next week as we turn our attention to Gowran Park on Saturday.

⭕ An eight-race card begins with division one of a 2-mile maiden hurdle (1:25pm). Gordon Elliott’s Abbeydale has had a few chances already, having been beaten in three maiden hurdles this season, and while this looks a good chance to break his duck, he may be worth taking on. Abbeydale was beaten 20 lengths at Punchestown last time, and, considering Anyway was making his debut, to finish a further 10 lengths behind the Elliott horse in eighth was a reasonable showing. He could take another step forward now and is a tentative each-way selection.

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⭕ Division two (2:00pm) has a similar look to it, with Libby standing out on all known form after posting four good runs over hurdles to date. Joseph O’Brien’s filly hasn’t been disgraced in strong races behind Blood Destiny and Sir Allen, and with both those horses fancied in the Cheltenham markets for the Triumph Hurdle and Fred Winter, respectively, that isn’t form to sniff at. This is an easier task, and this daughter of Highland Reel can finally get off the mark.

⭕ Next up is a mares’ maiden hurdle (2:35pm), also over the 2-mile trip. Henry de Bromhead’s debutant Langtry Girl is of interest, but on form Mitiva looks the one to side with. While Liz Doyle’s charge has been off since a good second at Punchestown last May, she won on her seasonal debut last campaign and should be primed for a good run on her reintroduction.

⭕ There are several in with chances in the 2m4f handicap hurdle (3:10pm), but it may pay to side with Quite Incredible after a good second on handicap debut at Fairyhouse last month. That form has been well advertised too, with the winner going on to finish fifth in Grade 3 company and the third coming out and winning since. While Dermot McLoughlin’s runner has gone up three pounds to a mark of 109, Paddy O’Hanlon’s five-pound claim offsets that rise.

⭕ Race five is the feature on the card, the 2-mile Grade B Shamrock Handicap Chase (3:45pm). Plenty come into this in good form, including impressive last-start winner Shakeytry, Union Park and Big Debates. It was hard not to be impressed with Minx Tiara’s run in Listed company last time though, as she wasn’t beaten all that far by two high-class mares that are Cheltenham bound next week. That caused the handicapper to raise her a further three pounds, but judging by her ready win off 125 in handicap company last year, she should be competitive off her current mark of 133.

⭕ A 2m4f beginners chase (4:20pm) follows, where both Ain’t That A Shame and Gars De Sceaux stand out. The former is particularly noted after going close in some valuable handicaps this season. However, both look to need an extreme stamina test to be seen at their best, and 2m4f could be on the sharp side for them, even with conditions set to ride soft. With that in mind, it’s worth taking a chance on Colm Murphy’s Macs Charm. He was a good second over this course and distance on only his second chase start last time, when beaten by the progressive Grandero Bello. There’s no disgracing that, and if his jumping is slicker here he could prove tough to catch.

⭕ The 4:55pm is a Hunters’ Chase over 3m1f, where two-time winner of the race Aloneamongmillions is sure to be popular as he bids for a third success. He has a serious rival to tackle though, in the form of David Christie’s Ferns Lock, a young hunter-chaser who thrashed Billaway at Thurles last time out. This six-year-old could still have plenty to come and should be tough to beat.

⭕ In the concluding bumper (5:30pm) over 2m2f, it’s hard not to side with Willie Mullins’ Tullyhill. This son of Martaline was bought for £220,000 at the Tattersalls Cheltenham November Sale and makes his rules debut in the colours of Cheveley Park. It’ll be disappointing if he’s not up to winning on debut.

DAQSTATS Tues: Royal Ascot Day One
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