With the big Leopardstown Christmas meeting just around the corner, Sunday’s Thurles meeting has an understandably low-key feel to it, though there a couple of interesting races and one or two bets to be had.

Useful hurdler Stratum will be a warm order in the opening novice chase at 12:10, and while he doesn’t look an obvious type for the bigger obstacles, he made a promising enough chasing debut when third to West Cork Wildway at this track last month.

He jumped adequately enough that day (just one mistake at the seventh) and kept on without really landing a telling blow on the winner. This looks a distinctly easier task for Stratum and he really should get the job done, though his price will be prohibitive.

The following big-field handicap chase at 12:40 has a wide-open look to it, though the likely favourite Beating The Odds could well be on a fair mark based on his hurdling exploits. He’s still relatively unexposed over fences and ran a creditable race when third at Punchestown on his most recent outing.

The cheekpieces that went back on that day are retained for this assignment and decent 5-lb claimer Shane Fitzgerald has been booked for the ride.

With an official hurdles rating of 108 compared to 99 over fences, it could be that Beating The Odds has a bit in hand of this field, though plenty of luck will be needed in what could be a rough contest.

The handicap chase at 13:10 has attracted only eight runners but it’s hard to rule out any of them with total confidence.

Ricky Langford is a consistent type who has combined hurdling and chasing to good effect so far this season and he should be bang there, his latest win coming over fences at Ballinrobe in September.

Western Sea, who will likely be challenging for favouritism with Ricky Langford, bounced back to form when third at this track last time but it’s hard to escape the fact that he’s on a long losing run.

Top weight All The Chimneys is another that should be bang there come the business end as he switches back to fences following a rather laboured effort over hurdles last time. Blinkers replace cheekpieces here and he should produce a more lively effort, though this isn’t a race that appeals from a betting perspective.

The feature race of the day is the listed mares novice hurdle at 13:40 which features the highly promising Willie Mullins-trained Braganza, who was a convincing winner on hurdles debut at this track last month.

She was understandably a little novicey at times but showed a bright turn of foot between the last two flights before eventually coming home six lengths clear of Monas Melody.

The runner-up didn’t do a lot for the form when well held next time, though it should be noted that the seventh-place finisher Powerful Out paid Braganza a compliment when taking a handicap hurdle at Tramore earlier this month.

The main danger to Braganza could well be Lunar Display, who has been a model of consistency of late. She is beginning to look a tad exposed, though, and may be vulnerable to something with a bit more progression.

The Getaway Star is another that has a chance but she was readily outpointed in similar company last time and probably needs to find a little more if she’s to take down the likes of Braganza and Lunar Display.

The handicap hurdle at 14:10 looks a complete head-scratcher to me and we’re probably looking around 7/1 the field in what is another wide-open contest.

Palace Rock was in the process of running creditably when falling two out when last seen in September and it’s not hard to see if him going well if putting in a clear round, though I’m definitely swerving this race.

Price permitting, my main bet on the card will Mr Fred Rogers in the novice hurdle at 14:40, who was readily outpointed in Grade 2 company last time but should be up to taking advantage of this drop in class.

He was no match for stable companion Ginto in that aforementioned contest, though that’s no disgrace given the winner will be competing at the top level sooner rather than later, and Mr Fred Rogers faces nothing of that calibre in this field.

This extended 2m 7f trip will be the furthest that he’s tackled in his career to date but he shapes like a stayer and it’s possible the step up in distance could unlock a little bit more improvement from the son of Sholokhov.

Nell’s Well was a surprise winner in Grade 3 company last time and it remains to be seen if she’s capable of backing that up. She had looked pretty exposed up to that point and I’d like to see her replicate that form before being convinced that she’s an improved model.

Two divisions of the same bumper conclude the card and neither makes much appeal from a punting point of view.

Gordon Elliott’s Burn The Evidence looks to have been found a good opportunity in the first of them, while Willie Mullins’ Eabha Grace should go off favourite in the second, though by this time of day we’re better off keeping our powder dry for the busy festive period.





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