Three Weekend Eyecatchers 11/02/19

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After British racing fell victim to the Equine Influenza virus at the weekend, it was left to the Irish meetings to keep the show rolling.

Naas and Punchestown served up two informative cards that could be pointers to the upcoming spring festival meetings. Here are three horses who took the eye at the weekend.

BAIE DES ILES GETS NICE GRAND NATIONAL PREP RACE

While Pravalaguna coasted to victory in the feature race at Naas – the Opera Hat Mares Chase – it was a horse who finished 14 lengths behind the winner who has come out of the race with credit too.

Baie Des Iles was returning from a disastrous run in the Welsh Grand National last time out, and over an inadequate trip of two miles, the dashing grey was kept wide, jumped right and made some sloppy errors, but she plugged on for a pleasing second place.

It’s obvious that trainer Ross O’Sullivan earmarked this race as a welcome confidence booster ahead of loftier targets come the spring, but the eight-year-old showed her class to run such a pleasing race over a trip a mile shorter than she would ideally like, especially given she could have easily been rerouted to a more typical target at Punchestown the next day.

The mare finished 12th in last season’s Grand National and it is likely that race, and the Irish equivalent, will be on her agenda this time around after a final prep race.

If she was to pass her next trial with flying colours, Baie des Iles would head into her spring targets with major credentials.

BAND OF OUTLAWS LOOKS HOT PROSPECT FOR O'BRIEN

Another Saturday, another Joseph O’Brien trained winner. This seems to be trend throughout the national hunt season, doesn’t it? It happened again on Naas as Band Of Outlaws put in a seriously impressive performance.

The four-year-old has made a promising start to life over timber, and despite being the trainer’s supposed second-string horse in the race, he overcame trouble in running to win by an eased-down 4 ¾ lengths on the line.

Given he made a mess of the final flight after reigniting his chance when short of room, the win was far more impressive than on his first viewing, he was a class above his rivals in a usually informative novice hurdle.

It’s made punters step up and take notice of Band of Outlaws, and with just over a month until the Cheltenham Festival, Band of Outlaws may be a dark horse heading into the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle.

DOUNIKOS STREGTHENS ELLIOTT'S GRAND NATIONAL TITLE DEFENCE

It had been a nightmare season for Dounikos, that was until he stamped his authority on the field in Punchestown’s Grand National Trial, and duly enhanced his chances in the race of the same namesake come Aintree in April.

After only completing twice in his previous six starts, the former grade two winner thrived on the step up to an extreme distance and stayed on well under pressure to take home the hefty prize money.

The victory will have given the horse a world of confidence, and he was able to display all of his classy tendencies which could set him in good stead come the spring.

It mustn’t be forgotten that he was quietly fancied for the RSA Chase last year, so he has been highly regarded by his trainer for a while.

This taking performance could propel him into his Elliott’s first choice for either the English or Irish National’s. He only adds ammunition to the yard which landed both races last year.

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