Barry Geraghty can team up with retained owner JP McManus and the in-form Gavin Cromwell yard in the first race at 12:25 at Navan on Saturday. SPADES AND TRUMPS (5/1) was a good third behind EARLY DOORS on debut at Wexford in October last year, and that form worked out well with EARLY DOORS going on to win a Grade 3 and finish second in a Grade 1. SPADES AND TRUMPS delivered the expected improvement for his second run and landed the spoils over the impressive PALOMA BLUE at Punchestown in November. That rival went out and won his next race, a decent maiden at Leopardstown on St. Stephen's Day. There will be plenty more improvement left in SPADES AND TRUMPS and Gavin Cromwell's string could hardly be in better form. He recently picked up the Welsh National with RAZ DE MAREE, a horse tipped in this column at 16/1.
It's interesting that Robbie Power takes the ride on the Willie Mullins-trained TURCAGUA (3/1) in the 14:45 race at Navan on Saturday. The eight-year-old has been off the track for almost a year when he was pulled up behind eventual winner PENHILL in the Albert Bartlett at the 2017 Cheltenham Festival. He had been pulled up in the race before that too at Clonmel, but prior to that, he'd held excellent company. At Punchestown in December 2016, he slammed rivals, including CHAMPAGNE CLASSIC, a subsequent Cheltenham and Punchestown winner, by nine lengths, announcing himself as a real prospect. He followed that with an impressive run to be second behind the hugely exciting DEATH DUTY. It's significant that Willie has persisted with this horse and despite a perceived delay, this could be the start of a successful chasing campaign.
Over at Thurles on Sunday, SYMPA DES FLOS (3/1) can be the star turn for the slightly out of form Willie Mullins yard in the 13:50 contest. This horse put a string of four second-placed efforts behind him last time out as he cruised to victory at Limerick, winning by 16 lengths. The manner of that win suggests there is much more to come from this five-year-old, and even some of his losing form reads very well. In November he chased home TRAINWRECK at Clonmel, and that horse has gone on to win a pretty strong handicap hurdle. The fourth placed horse on that occasion at Clonmel, CHATHAM HOUSE LAD, has also won since, giving a serious franking to this one's form. He relished the heavy ground in his latest win and the soft to heavy going at Thurles on Sunday will be right up his street again.
GILGAMBOA (6/4) can crown the weekend for punters in the 16:20 race at Thurles on Sunday afternoon. He once again faces VENITIEN DE MAI, a horse he just edged last time out at Down Royal. The pair went toe to toe with the latter faltering to a mistake at the last fence, eventually losing out by less than a length. However, GILGAMBOA was tough that day, and may not have been passed in any event. He will also have a little bit of weight in hand again on Sunday. He carried two pounds less than his rival that day, and will saddle three pounds less at Thurles. GILGAMBOA will enjoy the trip and has lapped up heavy ground on previous occasions. He has flattered to deceive at times in his career, never quite hitting the heights once expected, but he is a good jumper, strong stayer and has plenty of grit in a finish. He can make it back to back wins here.
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