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On-fire Briar is a belter; unbeaten gelding favourite for fifth straight success IRISH RACING: CHELTENHAM CLUES.

Byline: RYAN MCELLIGOTT

THE Willie Mullins-trained Briar Hill is a confident choice in the featured Slaney Novice Hurdle at Naas this afternoon.

The six-year-old comes into this race defending an unbeaten four-race record, which includes Grade 1 wins at Cheltenham and Navan.

After ending last season with a superb triumph in the bumper at Cheltenham, Briar Hill has started out over hurdles with a pair of straightforward wins.

The latest of these came in a two-runner event at Navan, where he defeated the smart Azorian.

The manner of his Navan success may not have impressed everyone, but there was plenty to like about how he knuckled down in the closing stages.

This race has produced a couple of surprise results in recent years, but Briar Hill cannot be opposed.

Mullins and Ruby Walsh should also be on the mark in the novice chase, where Mozoltov bids to follow up his successful chasing debut last month.

A smart novice hurdler last term, this Gigginstown-owned gelding enjoyed a smooth success at Fairyhouse last time.

He should be good enough to hold his own in smart company before the end of the season.

A live threat is Noel Meade's Ned Buntline, who got off the mark over fences at Navan just prior to Christmas. This gelding has long been held in the highest regard by Meade, and he should provide the favourite with a good test.

Treat need to on his Clonmel In the opening maiden hurdle, Chute Hall has a good chance to improve on a series of runnerup finishes. This Tom Cooper inmate came up against a topclass rival last time when he went down to Faugheen.

me Chute Hall is meeting nothing of that calibre on this occasion, and he should cope with the drop back in distance. f his hould In the mares beginners chase, a case could be made for a few of the runners, with Aibrean making most appeal.

Her trainer, Stuart Crawford, is in tremendous form having sent out six winners in the last 11 days.

Yourself will progress second at stac Aibrean caught the eye at Navan lately when staying on well in the closing stages to finish sixth in a decent handicap hurdle won by Jennies Jewel.

fir so s off tha That was her first run since May, so she can improve off that and she does have previous chasing experience. Her second over fences at Carlisle last March is a solid piece of form and could give her an edge over Blazing Sonnet.

In the two-mile handicap chase, it could pay to side with the Arthur Moore-trained (inset) bottom weight Treat Yourself.

He will need to progress on his second to Is Herself About at Clonmel last month, but should be open to improvement over fences.

The Bugler was running a decent race when falling at the last in a Navan handcicap two weeks ago.

If he can perform to a similar level, he may find the 80-109 rated handicap hurdle within his reach. The four-year-old bumper could fall to Champoleon, who is related to the top hurdler Harchibald.

Treat Yourself will need to progress on his second at Clonmel

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KING OF THE HILL: Briar Hill is defending an unbeaten four-race record this afternoon
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:Sunday Mirror (London, England)
Date:Jan 5, 2014
Words:544
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