A CRACKING DAY’S racing is in store for National Hunt enthusiasts at Fairyhouse with three Grade 1 races as the centrepiece of the card.
The going is reported as soft to heavy and with more showers forecast, it is unlikely to improve, making it a real test of stamina.
Despite relatively small fields, the features will pose punters plenty of problems in making their selections. The first race is due off at 12.20pm followed by the first of our Grade 1s.
The Royal Bond Novice Hurdle (12:50) is over two miles. This is a tricky race with just six going to post.
Galileo’s Son represents Dermot Weld and will have his followers. He won his maiden hurdle at the Galway Festival beating Drumfire by a neck. He then went to Killarney and beat Luska Lad by over three lengths in an amateur riders flat race over 2m1f on soft ground. His last race saw him collect a Group 3 flat race at Leopardstown off a rating of 102.
Il Fenomeno represents Michael O’Leary’s Gigginstown Stud and trainer Noel Meade. He won a hard-fought maiden hurdle at Punchestown by a neck from Run With The Wind before beating his highly-regarded stablemate Dylan Ross by two lengths at Navan. The ground shouldn’t be a problem as he won a Group 3 in Italy over 1m4f on heavy going. If he is as good as his trainer thinks he is, he must have a serious chance here.
Willie Mullins and Ruby Walsh have Sous Les Cieux here. This French gelding won his maiden at Fairyhouse very easily over 2m4f. After that win, his trainer stated that a trip back to two miles would not inconvenience him. That he does just that in a Grade 1 today is significant.
Mullins’ second runner, Midnight Game, is also owned by Gigginstown but best watched as Davy Russell opts for Il Fenomeno. Dazzling Susie and Miss Nomer look outclassed.
With not a lot to go on except a couple of runs and trainers’ opinions, I’m going to take a chance with SOUS LES CIEUX to collect the prize.
Next up is the Drinmore Novice Chase (13:20) over 2m4f.
Only six runners are declared and three of them represent Gigginstown; Paul Nolan has two; and Imperial Shabra from Oliver Brady’s yard makes up the field.
It’s hard to believe that Nolan’s Alpha Ridge and Shinrock Paddy are still maidens over the larger obstacles and they probably will be after this race unless one of the more fancied horses has a mishap.
It is quite possible that the Gigginstown contenders will fill the first three places. Tony Martin has said that Bog Warrior could be the best horse he has trained. On his chasing debut at Navan three weeks ago, he had a facile win over Flemenstar who went on to frank the form with a 19-length win at the same course last weekend.
Rivage d’Or will love the ground but might prefer a longer trip. Expect him to be running on at the finish.
However preference is for First Lieutenant who has been progressing nicely over fences. It is significant that Davy Russell has chosen him ahead of the other Gigginstown entries. His trainer has been keen to avoid the big guns with his main target set for Leopardstown at Christmas, so it is significant that he lets him take his chance here.
FIRST LIEUTENANT will just about win but Bog Warrior will put it up to him.
Our final big race of the day is the Grade 1 Hatton’s Grace Hurdle (13:50) over 2m4f.
Final Approach is officially rated 143 and would need substantial improvement to trouble some of the others.
The Real Article comes here off the back of a hat-trick of wins, the last two coming in Grade 2 races. I still have little doubts about Edward O’Grady’s charge and while the ground itself will not inconvenience him, the combination of the trip and the going will.
Slight preference is for Ruby Walsh’s mount Mourad who won two Grade 2 races last season and was placed in four Grade 1s, including a third to Big Buck’s at Cheltenham in the World Hurdle. Anything near that form should see him take this prize although Voler La Vedette could spoil the party.
It’s going to be an informative day’s racing and if you have nothing better to do, I’d highly recommend a vist to Fairyhouse. Wrap up well though.
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