Ball D'Arc is a horse worth following for the coming season after a number of high profile and eye-catching performances last term. He goes in the Grade 3 Poplar Square Chase over two miles at 12:35 at Naas on Saturday, and the Gordon Elliott-trained six-year-old can defy top weight. He will face Ordinary World, a horse that finished ahead of him when they clashed in a race won by Great Field in Punchestown in April. Ball D'Arc carries ten pounds more than Ordinary World on Saturday, but the difference may well come from the ground. The soft or even heavy going expected on Saturday will be less of an inconvenience for the Gordon Elliott horse. He also goes well fresh. Ball D'Arc has won or been placed in his last nine races and a break of a few months will be of benefit.
The 13:45 race at Naas on Saturday throws up an exciting and possibly very promising maiden hurdle. Pallasator will attract the attention for new trainer Gordon Elliott after a stellar career on the flat. He made the switch to the Meath handler a couple of months ago, and made a more than pleasing debut for the yard with an eight-length win over Tiger Roll on the flat at Punchestown last month. However, Next Destination can pose a huge threat for Willie Mullins and Paul Townend. He won his first two races handily enough in January 2016 and January 2017, before heading to Cheltenham in March to take on the Champion Bumper. He was a fast finishing fourth that day behind Fayonagh, who was a top prospect for Gordon Elliott before a fatal accident in training in recent weeks. It was hard not to sit up and take notice off how he finished out that race up the hill at Prestbury Park, and there's no doubting he is an exciting proposition for a top yard. With less miles on the clock, he can topple Pallasator on hurdling debut.
On Sunday at Navan, Apple's Jade will be all the rage for Gordon Elliott in the 13:40, but the Cheltenham and Punchestown winner is not impenetrable, especially after a break. A horse I've liked for a long time is Jer's Girl. She was travelling well when falling three from home in that Cheltenham race won by Apple's Jade last March, and has always been highly thought of, not least by JP McManus who bought her a couple of years ago. Apple's Jade, for all the hype, has not won her season opener in each of the last two years, and hasn't run now since April. Jer's Girl warmed up for this with a decent run behind Jezki and will carry seven pounds less than her rival on Sunday. Jer's Girl can get the ball rolling on a big 2018 season here.
In the 14:10, The Game Changer can take advantage of a fairly ordinary field despite being pulled up on his most recent start. Before that he won two on the bounce over Ballycasey and Ted Veale and can recapture that form here. Fine Rightly and Tell Us More can muster challenges but The Game Changer is a seasoned performer and invariably wins a few races every year. This is a poor renewal of this race and could be an easy target for the Gordon Elliott horse.