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Jockey Ruby Walsh and trainer Willie Mullins. Photo: PA
Jockey Ruby Walsh and trainer Willie Mullins. Photo: PA

Michael Verney

Punting is a tricky game at the best of times but the usual suspects of Willie Mullins and Ruby Walsh are the men to follow tomorrow when they combine with the aptly-named Easy Game in the Grade Two Navan Novice Hurdle (12.30).

Mullins has landed six of the last ten renewals – no horse priced bigger than 7/2 has prevailed in that time – and Easy Game did things the hard way three weeks ago at the Meath track when taking the Grade Three ‘Monksfield’ Novice Hurdle.

The four-year-old chinned the re-opposing Magnium (Jessica Harrington) and Choungaya (Joseph O’Brien) in the shadows of the post on that occasion having stayed on stoutly up the Navan hill.

There’s no reason to suggest why he can’t continue on an upward curve but he won’t have it all his own way in a race which has produced classy winners in recent years, most notably Death Duty, No More Heroes and Bellshill.

Gordon Elliott’s Defi Bleu landed his maiden here in decent style last month – Noel Meade’s Momus was second on that occasion and his performance in the opener will provide plenty of clues – while Rhinestone is another to note.

A promising Bumper horse for O’Brien last season, Rhinestone got the better of Envious Editor in a thrilling finish on his recent hurdling debut with the pair pulling well clear so there should be more to come from him.

The Mullins-Walsh axis hit the groove again last weekend with a Punchestown treble, however, and Easy Game – which provided him with his first winner back from injury at this year’s Galway Festival – can do the business.

Battleoverdoyen, a €260,000 purchase by Gigginstown after winning his sole point-to-point outing in April 2017, made his racecourse debut only two weeks ago when comfortably taking a Punchestown bumper for Elliott.

The Cullentra handler isn’t waiting around, however, and pitches the five-year-old in over hurdles in the opening maiden hurdle (12.0), but while a bold bid is expected, it may pay to side with the more experienced Momus.

The richest prize on the Navan card is the €50,000 Tara Handicap Hurdle (1.0) where Elliott sends five into battle but the Closutton duo may have his number again.

Walsh and Mullins combine with the unexposed Calie Du Mesnil and the six-year-old mare could be the safest bet off a handy weight, with Paul Nolan’s Rooster Byron also likely to make the frame.

The likes of Samcro, Don Cossack and Dunguib have claimed the Listed ‘Future Champions’ Flat Race (3.10) in the last decade and Envoi Allen looks a tantalising prospect for Elliott having scored on debut at Fairyhouse despite looking green.

Assuming Fairyhouse passes an 8am inspection today, Meade’s School Boy Hours can get off the mark in the maiden hurdle (1.50), while the bumper (3.35) should see Elliott’s Larquebuse fight out the finish with Mullins’ Fasola Tido.

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Irish Independent



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