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An excellent weekend of racing action at the Winter Festival at Fairyhouse gets underway with MONKFISH making his chasing debut in the opener over 2m 5f. The Albert Bartlett winner was made for chasing following his point-to-point victory at Stowlin and he didn’t disappoint as a novice hurdler with victory at the Cheltenham Festival in March.
Willie Mullins has enjoyed a fine month with his novices’ and despite the short-price it should be another winner bar an accident for the Closutton team. Elsewhere, Diol Ker should chase the favourite home following his recent experience over fences and remember he did beat Monkish in a maiden hurdle here last November.
Concertisa returns to the track following her victory in the mares’ novices’ hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival and is currently rated 8lbs superior to my selection MINELLA MELODY. I’m happy to side with the Henry de Bromhead trained runner on several grounds, with hopefully a reversal of form today following their clash at Prestbury Park in March.
Firstly, Minella Melody has recent race fitness on her side following a comeback second at Galway last month, while secondly the race-distance should suit her better today against the Mullins rival. Elsewhere, Cheltenham Bumper third Queens Brook can’t be out despite getting turned over at Down Royal, with the Elliott mare surely appreciating the step-up in trip here.
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Gordon Elliott and Joseph O’Brien have won the last two renewals of this maiden hurdle with both trainers likely to fight out the finish. Indigo Breeze has race fitness for Elliott following a nice Thurles bumper victory last month and quickly tackles hurdles for the first time under jockey Jack Kennedy. However, KESKONRISK is an interesting runner here for O’Brien having moved to the Piltown trainer following a bumper victory here on New Year’s Day for former trainer Timmy Hyde.
Hyde reported the horse had a lot of speed and was well-schooled over hurdles before that bumper victory and he changed hands for £370,000 at Goffs later that month. The form of that race was boost with the second, Favori De Champdou winning at Thurles in February, while Gabynako (who finished third) won a maiden hurdle for Gavin Cromwell at Naas last weekend.
It’s a small field of seven-declared runners for the closing race on day one of the Winter Festival at Fairyhouse and it might be wise to side with FISTON DES ISSARDS for Gordon Elliott. This pick simply comes down to recent race-fitness following his second-place finish here earlier this month. The five-year-old, who won a point-to-point at Louhanmore last October just came across one too good on his rules debut and will hopefully score here thanks to that experience.
Elsewhere, Wille Mullins runs Reality Cheque on debut for the yard following a point-to-point victory at Kilfeacle in January. The Closutton team has won this bumper on several occasions in the past, with Shaneshill, Bon Papa and Minella Encore all securing glory – so Reality Cheque is obviously on the short-list today. Finally, keep an eye on the market for any moves for either Coastal World for Peter Fahey or Highland Charge from the Noel Meade stable.
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