Preview Naas 6th Jan

Sat 5th Jan 2013, 12:50

The Grade Two Slaney Novice Hurdle provides the highlight of the card at Naas and sees Willie Mullins try to win it for the third time in the last four years.

Successful with Gagewell Flyer and Mikael D'Haguenet in recent years, Mullins relies on Champagne Fever this time, the dominant bumper horse of last season.

Second to Jezki at Leopardstown over the Christmas period, the six-year-old is likely to be a warm order here, though Rule The World impressed when beating the reopposing Joncol at Navan last time, and Minsk may benefit from this step up in trip.

The meeting gets under way at 12.35 with the Annual Membership At Naas Maiden Hurdle, in which Mullins' Upazo bids to build on a fair Irish debut when second at Gowran.

Drumgooland comes into the race on the back of a Downpatrick bumper win and won't make life easy, though, nor will Christy Roche's Limerick Lane.

Mullins has effortless Thurles winner Marito in what promises to be an informative Irish Stallion Farms EBF Novice Chase, though the star of the race could be Mount Benbulben.

Things haven't gone according to plan for Gordon Elliott's charge this season, but he did win well at Fairyhouse before pulling up in Grade One company at Leopardstown last time.

Jenari unseated in that Leopardstown contest and is another threat with a clear round, while Tillahow also cannot be ruled out.

Our Girl Salley bids to end a frustrating sequence of second-placed finishes when she tackles the Irish Stallion Farms EBF Mares Beginners Chase, though she is likely to face stiff opposition from Mae's Choice and A Country Girl.

Ros Brin and Luke's Benefit bid to follow up last-time-out successes in the Tipper Road Handicap Chase, while Fair Dilemma, William Wordsworth and Misca Musca all hold strong claims in the Martinstown Opportunity Handicap Hurdle.

GRAND NATIONAL - The Northern Challenge

The Sue Smith-trained Auroras Encore was the last northern-trained horse to win the Grand National back in 2013 but recent victories for that part of the country have been thin on the ground since the likes of Lucius, Rubstic and Hallo Dandy in the late 70s early 80’s showed that steeplechasing was in a healthy state north of the Watford Gap with the likes of Gordon W Richards, Denys Smith, Arthur Stephenson, Peter Easterby and Jimmy Fitzgerald capable of holding their own against their southern and Irish counterparts.