Gordon Elliott's Samcro and the Willie Mullins-trained Next Destination are set to go head to head in the Grade 1 Lawlor’s Of Naas Novice Hurdle at Naas Racecourse on Sunday January 7.
Mullins confirmed as much on Tuesday night in Lawlor's Hotel at the launch of the event when he said he would be aiming Next Destination at this race, but the presence of the unbeaten Samcro will give Elliott a strong chance of winning the race once again.
Gordon Elliott and Willie Mullins have dominated the race in recent years and not surprisingly the country’s leading trainers hold the strongest of hands for the first Grade 1 to be run in Ireland in the New Year.
Successful with Death Duty in the 2017 renewal, Gordon Elliott has made eight entries for the €90,000 event headed by the unbeaten Samcro which had little difficulty in adding the Grade 3 Monksfield Novice Hurdle at Navan late last month to his maiden hurdle success at Punchestown in October.
Elliott has also entered Mengli Khan, the impressive winner of the Grade 1 Bar One Racing Royal Bond Novice Hurdle at Fairyhouse and Cracking Smart which won many admirers when winning at listed level at Cork five weeks ago.
Champion trainer Willie Mullins is responsible for 19 of the 42 entries and the exciting Next Destination, a winner at Naas a month ago, Punchestown winner Getabird and runaway Cork winner Fabulous Saga feature highly among his team.
Noel Meade is well represented with six entries including Moyross, unbeaten in two starts over hurdles while Joseph O'Brien has four entries to choose from, notably Royal Bond Novice Hurdle runner-up Early Doors and Navan maiden hurdle winner Speak Easy.
The Jessica Harrington-trained Someday is to be aimed at a maiden hurdle ahead of his challenge for the Lawlor’s Of Naas Novice Hurdle while Paul Nolan could rely on narrow Fairyhouse winner Discorama. Herefordshire trainer Kerry Lee has entered her Irish-import, Storm Control.
Tom Ryan, Manager of Naas Racecourse, said, “"Now in its 4th renewal as a Grade 1 contest, the Lawlor's of Naas Hurdle has become a real highlight of the National Hunt calendar. The first three renewals have been really exciting, with the continued valued support of Lawlor's we look forward to making the 2018 event even better."
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