SHAMROCK Sat: Cork on Saturday is our first meeting of the new year and there’s a competitive seven-race card to look forward to.

⭕ We begin with a maiden hurdle (12:27pm) over 2 miles, where Willie Mullins’ debutant Alastor is likely to be a very warm order to record a first success over hurdles. While this Helmet gelding might not look a hurdler on paper, he was high-class on the flat in Italy, placing in Group 2 company, and if transferring even a hint of that ability he will be tough to beat. For those looking for something at a bigger price, Philip Rothwell’s well-bred son of Getaway, Away To Milan, could be worth a look in the betting.

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⭕ Next up is a novice hurdle (1:02pm) over 2 miles. Elusive Guy was in the process of running a good race against much higher rated opposition, when unseating his rider Peter Smithers at the second last, at Limerick recently. Before that, Jarlath Fahey’s five-year-old had won well over 2 miles at the same course. Now back in against fellow novices, he could go well in soft conditions that clearly suit him.

⭕ The third race on the card is another maiden hurdle (1:37pm), this time over a 3-mile trip. Willie Mullins and Paul Townend team up with Walk In The Brise, who has been twice beaten over hurdles at short odds this season. While she looks the most likely winner, there could be more value in taking a chance on Japers Jack for Philip Fenton and Brian Hayes. This son of Court Cave ran well to finish fifth in a competitive Navan maiden over 2m4f last time and should be suited by this step up in trip.

⭕ A 2m4f handicap hurdle (2:12pm) follows. The Charles Byrnes-trained All Those Years won a novice hurdle over 2 miles at this track in January last year when coming off the back of a two-month break. Two handicap hurdles in the summer perhaps didn’t see him in the best light, and there could be more to come from this lightly-raced nine-year-old now back on softer ground and up in trip.

⭕ Our first race over fences is a beginners’ chase (2:47pm) over 2m4f. After running some promising races over hurdles, the eye is drawn to Joy Of Life making his chase debut here. Seamus Neville’s six-year-old finished a good second on his only start in point-to-points, suggesting he should take well to fences. The application of first-time cheekpieces and booking of JJ Slevin (21% strike rate for the yard) look to be signals of intent.

⭕ The sixth race, a handicap chase (3:22pm) over 2m4f looks a competitive heat and isn’t an easy one to weigh up. Wa Wa was carried out by a loose horse early on last time, while Yabo fell too early in her race to assess her chances. Carrolls Cottage has really struggled to get his head in front over fences, but there could be hope of him doing so at the 13th attempt here. First-time blinkers appeared to do the trick last time at Clonmel, where he was just collared late on by a lightly-weighted Gordon Elliott runner that looks to be on the improve. If the head gear works as well this time, he could go well, with this step back up in trip a plus.

⭕ In the finale, a bumper (3:57pm) over 2 miles, it’s hard to look beyond the Willie Mullins-trained Fancy Girl. A good winner of her sole point, where she beat a rival that has since scored readily in a bumper at Ludlow for Fergal O’Brien, she looks the part on paper and can get the better of the more experienced Tilloughna.

DAQMAN Weds: Kempton NAP
DAQSTATS Weds: Kempton NAP
THE STRIKER Weds: Sunderland v Fulham (FA Cup)
THE EDGE Thurs: India v Australia 1st Test
PAT HEALY blog: The Perfect Festival!
THE WEEK AHEAD: Super Bowl week !!
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