IT’S HEAVY GOING FOR PUNTERS: Both the deferred meeting at Navan and the English card at Market Rasen will be run in heavy ground this afternoon, a red flag for punters who are anxious to see Cheltenham potential in the Grade-2 trials of Boyne Hurdle and Ten Up Novice Chase. Taunton claims good-to-soft conditions but there was light rain this morning.

⚠️ PUNCHESTOWN INSPECTS: Similar ground conditions apply for Punchestown and Doncaster tomorrow, and Punchestown inspects at 7.30 a.m.


⭕ 2.20 Navan (Boyne Hurdle) This 2m 5f hurdle was won four years running by Gordon Elliott (2017-20), including with National winner Tiger Roll.

So it’s not strange to see Longhouse Poet reappear in it off 144 within a month of his Thyestes Chase success, 10lb below his revised 154 rating over fences.

It gives him a 5lb lower mark here than the Lismullen Hurdle winner on this course and recent Limestone Lad Hurdle winner at Naas, Darasso.

Twice runner-up to Honeysuckle, Ronald Pump is nine now: he’s been a loser both times he’s been to Navan, and he lost his two Grade-1 December starts by a total of 91 lengths.

Ashdale Bob started his hurdles career here at Navan with 2-2 and won a Grade-2 novice at Fairyhouse in the Spring before an unrewarding sequence over fences.

Back to Gordon Elliott and his four-year roll in this race: are we missing something in the form of his two outsiders today, Grand Roi and Commander Of Fleet?

Maybe, but it’s safer to try Dreal Deal as the danger to Longhouse Poet. He won six in a row in 2020-21, and is another returning to hurdles from fences, with the difference that Paul Townend has been booked. Three times a winner on heavy.

BETDAQ BETTING EXCHANGE 6.5 Longhouse Poet, 17 Dreal Deal


⭕ 4.05 Navan (Ten Up Novice Chase) Trainer Gordon Elliott declared three Cheltenham and Grand National prospects in the race named after Jim Dreaper’s 1975 Gold Cup winner, who ran in the same ownership as Arkle.

The principal remaining of the Elliott trio is Farouk d’Alene, which Fortune Cookie fans have already backed for the NH Challenge Cup at Cheltenham at 15.0.

Farouk d’Alene has been out of the first two only once in eight starts, and I took BETDAQ 2.6 offers before 9 a.m. for today’s race, and I hope Fortune Cookie punters did.

He won a beginners’ chase from a big field here at Navan on his return from a year off, following up with a Grade-1 second, then runner-up to Stattler in his first attempt at around 3m.

Though Run Wild Fred is a non–runner, his second to another stablemate, Coko Beach, in the 2021 Thyestes is a guide to today’s racing.

The renewal of the Thyestes last month saw Coko Beach slip back to sixth behind Longhouse Poet with the third Elliott runner in the Ten Up today, Braeside, pulled up after a bad mistake.

Braeside won the Cork Grand National and was fourth in the big power chase at Leopardstown over Christmas.


Are all his hawks doves? Paul Nicholls, who runs Birds Of Prey at Taunton this afternoon, is only part of the way to solving the stable’s problems.

His seriously bad run was halted when Bravemansgame scored at Cheltenham 10 days back, and he had a double across the cards.

But Ditcheat has nose-dived again (1-17 since the double); what’s most worrying for the stable and punters alike is that nine losers have been well fancied at around 3-1 or shorter.

His record of favourites since Bravemansgame is 320402, a clear case of missing strike, an expression used to describe a series of defeats due to lack of fitness in the stable string or poor selection of targets, where the horses in question are ‘expected’ from a short price in the market.

Nicholls has admitted to being mystified after stable scrutiny right down to the content of feedstuffs in terms of percentage nutrients, since the troubled times began.

With a 26% strike at one of his local tracks, Taunton, he will have everything crossed for another turnkey day or face throwing in the towel on Saturday’s £100,000 Grade-3 trophy chase at Kempton Park.

With Clan Des Obeaux, Enrilo, Frodon and Kapcourse among his seven entries, the race obviously means a lot; in fact, a lot more than just one race, taking place as it does just three days before the magic month of March and Cheltenham.

At this stage, the trainer tweets that Lalor and Enrilo will both run at Kempton; Pic d’Orhy goes in the Pendil Novice Chase.


⭕ 3.40 Taunton Birds Of Prey is a big price for this class-2 handicap hurdle, and that’s where the shrewd operator is hoping for an edge from the Nicholls situation.

If he can find a quiet runner from the yard that’s too big in the market he’ll take the risk that the dove is a hawk that can pounce unexpectedly on a prize while others in the yard are still poor value.

Bird Of Prey is down 10lb on the mark he was given after breaking his maiden here at Taunton in April 2019. He’s won only a Flat and an NH-flat race since.

But there’s more than a crumb of hope in that his best hurdles form since was again here at Taunton, class-3 third in a big field.

He gets 21lb from Langer Dan, who deserves topweight as the Imperial Cup winner subsequently runner-up to the much-vaunted Galopin Des Champs at Cheltenham, but absent now 340 days.

Kim Bailey is a trainer you catch when he’s on a run of form, and he’s had four winners at decent prices in the last 10 days. Ajero is down to the mark at which he completed four wins in a row last Spring.

Timberman is consistent but has never won after a break. Fontana Ellissi wins in his turn but doesn’t hold his form. Zambezi Fix is a bridesmaid: 222202, still standing.

BETDAQ BETTING EXCHANGE 6.2 Ajero, 14 Birds Of Prey


2.20 Navan (win 20, win 10 a place)
BET 1.25pts win and 3pts place DREAL DEAL

3.40 Taunton (win 20)
BET 4pts win AJERO
BET 1.5pts win BIRDS OF PREY

4.05 Navan

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Start with a bank and decide how much you can afford to lose over a period of time, and determine the size of your bets accordingly. Daqman makes this variation every day.