Irish Eyes: Venitien cruise?

Our columnist from the Emerald Isle has picked out his best wagers from today's Troytown Chase card at Navan.

Willie Mullins can land the Navan opener with Battleford

Best bets:

Nap: Battleford – 12.10 Navan

Next Best: Venitien De Mai – 2.20 Navan

Each-Way: Orchard Road – 1.15 Navan

Gordon Elliott has been stealing a march in Ireland this season and he saddles an astonishing 11 of the 25 starters in today's feature Troytown Chase at Navan in a bid to win the race.

Obviously saddling 44% of the runners gives him every chance of landing the race for a third consecutive season but it doesn't necessarily always work out that way and a chance is taken with another trainer who has just the one runner and has a history in the race as well.

Jim Dreaper has won the Troytown with Notre Pere in 2008, a horse who had run very well in the Irish Grand National the previous season, finishing third, beaten 16 lengths.

Venitien De Mai comes into this with a similar profile having also contested last season's Irish National as a novice where he ran creditably in the circumstances finishing ninth, beaten 21 lengths, off a mark of 137.

Following an average seasonal debut and then a below-par effort last time, he arrives at Navan on a mark of 135 today and if he can recapture his form again he could well surprise a few. At 22/1 with Sky Bet, with their enhanced each-way offer, he is worth taking a chance on this afternoon.

The Willie Mullins team have really hit form of late with nine winner from his last 15 runners, and it's difficult to look past Battleford in the opening race today, the two-mile hurdle.

In three racecourse starts, he won his bumper, finished a nose second when staying on at Cheltenham and was only caught with 100 yards to go at Aintree and beaten a mere half-a-length by stable-mate Bacardys in the Aintree bumper.

He looks to be on a completely different level to any of the opposition this afternoon although that is reflected in his forecast odds. That said, he looks the safer option of the two Mullins hotpots today, especially with Min being as short as 1/4 in places.

Although Battleford has tracked the leaders at both Cheltenham and Aintree, there are 29 other opponents to be avoided today which throws up the potential for traffic problems, so the chances are that Ruby will change tactics today and make all on him leaving the negotiation of eight hurdles as the only obstacles between him and victory.

It's difficult to envisage it playing out any other way and hence he gets the nap vote.

Ruby Walsh could make it a quick double in the third race where he teams up with Elliott to partner Orchard Road.

The nine-year-old had four different trainers in the UK before making his debut for Elliott last July. He had won just twice from 20 starts and had dropped into selling hurdles in the UK but Elliott appears to have sweetened him up a little and he's won a race, finished third twice and fourth once in five starts – odds of 7/1 seem fair.

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