Cilaos Emery - 14:00 Naas
Sunday's card at Naas starts with a bang as there's a fascinating clash between Cilaos Emery and Daly Tiger in the Grade 3 Newlands Chase. Cilaos Emery hasn't been seen since finishing runner-up to stablemate Bachasson in the Clonmel Oil Chase in November and he must give the in-form Daly Tiger 9 lb, but he could be up to the task. Cilaos Emery showed top-class form when readily brushing aside Ballyoisin in the Hilly Way Chase at Cork last season. He has failed to reproduce that form subsequently but he hasn’t had much of an opportunity as he fell at the first in last season's Dublin Chase and possibly found the two-and-a-half-mile trip stretching his stamina when runner-up to Bachasson at Clonmel. The weight concession to Daly Tiger means this is not a straightforward task but he just shades the vote.
🗣 “It was a pity he missed most of last season, but he’s making up for it now"— Racing TV (@RacingTV) December 8, 2019
Watch a full replay of how Cilaos Emery provided Willie Mullins with an 11th win in the Kerry Group Hilly Way Chase at @corkracecourse ⬇https://t.co/lNaH6GNz3L pic.twitter.com/7D6Fe9t6A6
The big improver
High Up In The Air - 14:40 Fontwell
High Up In The Air was just a fair hurdler but he has been improving in leaps and bounds over fences this season. He didn't make an impact on his chasing debut at Lingfield over an unsuitable three miles but he has been on a sharp upward curve since dropping back in trip, racking up four wins on the bounce. High Up In The Air is a bold-jumping, strong-travelling front-runner and the way he goes through his races suggests that he could yet do even better. A 6 lb rise in the weights for his win at Sandown is not severe and, with more to come, he should be difficult to beat.
Top on Time
McFabulous - 15:10 Fontwell
McFabulous finished last season on a high, signing off with a decisive six-and-a-half-length success in the rescheduled EBF Final at Kempton. That was a handicap but the style of victory strongly suggested that McFabulous would make a mark at a higher level. He has done just that this season, sauntering to an easy victory in the Grade 2 Persian War Novices' Hurdle and then running a cracker when third in the Long Distance Hurdle at Newbury, despite the three-mile trip stretching his stamina. He was by no means fully extended when justifying favouritism in the rescheduled Relkeel Hurdle at Kempton last month, but he still produced a notably good time, one which is significantly better than anything his rivals have achieved on the clock. That time proved his performance at Kempton was a very smart one.
The Timeform Flag (Timeform top-rated, Horse In Focus)
Banana Joe - 16:50 Hereford
Banana Joe showed little over hurdles for Ben Pauling last season but, fit from having finished second in a point, he shaped with encouragement when third in a handicap hurdle at Taunton last month on his first start for Henry Daly. Banana Joe made a mistake at the fifth, was shuffled back at the fourth-last, was hampered at the third-last and was then short of room inside the final 100 yards, so he did well to be beaten less than two lengths. Given everything that went wrong at Taunton, that was an eye-catching effort from Banana Joe, and he looks well treated off the same mark here. He could have more to offer for this yard.
The Sunday Nap
Aarons Day - 17:00 Naas
Aarons Day progressed well last season, winning a maiden over two and a half miles at Fairyhouse before dropping back in trip to make a successful handicap debut over this course and distance. Aarons Day failed to complete the hat-trick on his reappearance here last month but he was about as big of an eye-catcher and as an unlucky of a loser as it's possible to be. A shambolic start resulted in Aarons Day losing at least 20 lengths, so it is to his credit that he was beaten only four and a quarter lengths in second. He has gone up 4 lb in the weights but you suspect he'd be running off a much higher mark had he been given a fair crack at things last time.
A dramatic few minutes and a very controversial start at Naas.— Racing TV (@RacingTV) January 31, 2021
Strong words here from Kevin O'Ryan and Ruby Walsh live at the track pic.twitter.com/Ms4lM5a4db
The in-form trainer
Paul Nicholls (Run to form percentage: 70%)
Paul Nicholls suffered some disappointing results last weekend, headlined by Cyrname pulling up in the Ascot Chase, but the yard's form has been good on the whole. Results since last weekend have certainly been encouraging. Between Monday and Friday two of Nicholls' seven runners won, while another four were placed. He has six runners at Fontwell on Sunday and some obvious chances. McFabulous has clear claims in the feature National Spirit Hurdle, while Sametegal will also be a short price for the hunters’ chase (16:40) which looks more about quantity than quality.
Sametegal, a winner at Wincanton last time, will be too short to tempt most punters, but Brewers Project in the novice hurdle (15:40) might be more of a betting proposition. Brewers Project was put in his place by Grumpy Charley at Chepstow last time but he was no means disgraced behind a thriving rival who has gone in again subsequently. Brewers Project, an expensive purchase after winning an Irish point, is on an upward curve and still has more to give.