Stick With Venitien To Score At Naas

Jockey Johnny Burke makes a welcome return to action this weekend at Naas where there is a good card on Sunday and while it wasn’t exactly on a par with Bryan Cooper or Ruby Walsh’s choices for the Gold Cup, Burke had the Jim Dreaper-trained pair of Goonyella and Venitien De Mai to chose from for the Leinster National on Sunday.

Gallant Oscar tops the weights in the three-miler which is worth almost €30,000 to the winner and it’s an intriguing contest with Golden Wonder, an Irish Grand National runner-up and a horse who was sent off favourite for the Galway Plate won by Road To Riches, also making an appearance.

Bryan Cooper also had a choice in this between the Gordon Elliott pair of Captain Von Trappe and Nickname Exit and it’s hardly a surprise he has gone for Nickname Exit who won nicely at Navan over hurdles last time.

Ever since the entries for this race were released on Tuesday however Venitien De Mai was a horse that caught the eye.

And while seeing a retained jockey overlook a fancy is never a good thing, having Jonathan Moore claim five-pounds off his back doesn’t appear to inconvenience Venitien De Mai in the slightest so I’ll be sticking with him.

You’d have to think the testing conditions will suit the Midlands National winner Goonyella perfectly but in an ideal world he’d want even further than this gruelling three-miles and the hope is that the lightly raced Venitien De Mai can exploit his light weight (9st12lbs) and continue his progression following a likeable effort in Down Royal last time.

Prior to that Down Royal success the four-time winning point-to-pointer had run a smashing race at Down Royal over Christmas to finish third behind Noble Endeavor, who is well fancied for the four-miler at Cheltenham, and Marlbrook, who has won twice since including the big novice handicap chase at Naas last month.

Non Runner – Have A Bet
The big Cheltenham craze for punters is when bookmakers go non-runner/no-bet but there’s a non runner at Naas this weekend that is worth a bet. Avant Tout is a horse who was entered up to run at Naas but wasn’t declared on Friday morning and I think it was with Cheltenham in mind.

The horse was entered to run over fences on Sunday but it was over hurdles that he caught my eye when the weights for the Cheltenham handicaps were released earlier in the week.

The problem with Avant Tout is he is entered in the National Hunt Chase (25/1), the RSA Chase (50/1) and the JLT Chase (20/1) but I don’t see him winning any of them and I’d be hoping connections opt to send him for the Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys Handicap Hurdle for which he is a 20/1 shot.

It’s not like Willie Mullins to miss an entry so he’s also stuck him in the Coral Cup so with five races to chose from or the alternative of hanging around for Fairyhouse and running in the Ryanair Gold Cup a week later, you really would have to be waiting for non-runner/no-bet to kick in but in two-week’s time it could be worth the wait.

Going at Gowran
It was great that Gowran Park passed Friday’s inspection and the Tetratema Cup features dual Cheltenham winner Salsify who unfortunately didn’t qualify for a return to the Foxhunters this season.

He’s likely to be a short priced favourite for this race but punters may be wise to take a chance on Carrigeen Acebo turning him over.

The eight-year-old is an 11-time winner between the flags and is a fair yardstick who gets almost a stone from the favourite so shouldn’t be discounted.

Marasonnien is an interesting runner in the Rich Ricci colours. He was second behind horses like Gold Cup winner Lord Windermere and Thyestes Chase winner My Murphy in the past but he’s had no joy in two point-to-point outings and may find Carrigeen Acebo and Salsify too much to handle.

*Prices correct at time of publication.