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Townend choice Sandsend expected to relish the testing conditions

Duca De Thaix (near side) wins at Limerick last month
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1.50 Naas
Limestone Lad Hurdle | 2m | G3 | ATR

There is an illustrious roll of honour for this Grade 3 with previous winners including Sutton Place (2017), Rule The World (2014), Solwhit (2013) and Mikael D'Haguenet (2012). Those are big boots to fill. 

Willie Mullins last won the race in 2016 with Sempre Medici and he is double-handed this time around with Dolciano Dici and Sandsend. Stable jockey Paul Townend has opted to ride the latter, who proved a disappointing favourite at Leopardstown over Christmas having pulled too hard.

Mullins said: "Both won over hurdles in France and are quite difficult to place. Dolciano Dici hasn't run for us and will be having his first start since winning in April 2016. He's a light-framed horse and, while we'll have to see how he gets on, he could be better suited by spring or summer ground.

"Paul rides Sandsend who will love the testing conditions. We're hoping he'll step forward from his run at Limerick last month when he finished third and his official rating puts him in with a decent chance."

Has Gordon got the goods? 

Fresh from extending his lead over Willie Mullins in the trainers' title race thanks to the Thyestes triumph of Monbeg Notorious, Gordon Elliott is also doubly represented with Duca De Thaix and Destin D'ajonc. 

Duca De Thaix is already a Grade 3 winner having dug deep in deplorable conditions to score at Limerick over Christmas, while Destin D'ajonc has to step up significantly on a disappointing Irish debut at the same meeting where he trailed in last of all behind Ex Patriot. 

Elliott said: "Duca De Thaix won well at Limerick and is in good form. This looks a better race though, and he'll need to improve on what he showed at Limerick to win it. 

"Destin D'ajonc was really disappointing for us at Limerick and will certainly have to step up on what he showed there to feature."

Is there a joker in the pack? 

Perhaps the most fascinating runner in the line-up is French recruit Arcenfete, who has not been seen since the summer of 2016, but his CV in France makes for pleasant reading. 

He won on heavy ground on the Flat and also won his sole start over hurdles at Auteuil so it will be very interesting to see how he performs on his first start for Henry de Bromhead with Davy Russell in the saddle. 

De Bromhead said: "We had very little options. There were not many races we could have run him in so we have turned up here. His work at home has been okay but he's not run for a long time so it will be interesting to see how he gets on. It looks a good race."


Read The Briefing from 8.30am daily on racingpost.com with all the day's latest going, weather, market moves and non-runner news

Sandsend will love the testing conditions. We're hoping he'll step forward from his run at Limerick last month
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