Prince Harry and Meghan Markle established their own Royal Bond this week, and Gordon Elliott will be hoping to take another step towards the crown of Champion Trainer when Mengli Khan leads a three-strong attack in the Grade 1 Royal Bond Novice Hurdle at 1pm on a fine card at Fairyhouse on Sunday.
He’s hugely respected, but this renewal looks hotter than Damian Green’s alleged search history, so Mengli Khan is taken on with Le Richebourg. He’s one of the more exciting recruits to be seen in this division so far this season and the Joseph O’Brien-trained four-year-old is preferred to Makitorix, an impressive winner at Listowel in September.
Makitorix represents Willie Mullins, who has farmed this race in recent years, and the market could help spell out the horse’s chance, though it won’t help Des Scarhill pronounce the horse’s name. Red Jack won as he liked at Naas last month and is another potential superstar, so it looks an excellent renewal on paper.
Similarly, the Hatton’s Grace at 1.30pm looks a very strong renewal on Timeform ratings, and it features last year’s winner Apple’s Jade. She made all in the Lismullen Hurdle at Navan last time (Jer’s Girl has franked the form since) and – with race fitness on her side – could be hard to peg back once again.
Trying to knock the apple off the top, however, is William “Tell” Mullins. He fires three arrows, with Stayers’ Hurdle winner Nichols Canyon appearing to be the stable’s main hope. He is fully effective over this shorter trip (has won the 2m Morgiana Hurdle on his reappearance for the last two years) and looks a big threat.
Coral Cup winner Supasundae is open to more improvement this term and is respected accordingly, while Augusta Kate, who has a bit to find on form, is owned by ‘The Masters Syndicate’ which includes several sporting celebrities as well as Ant and Dec. I’m likely to struggle in this high-quality Grade 1, get me out of here…
The famous Benjamin Franklin quote tells us that “in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes” and the market suggests that the Drinmore Novices’ Chase at 2.35pm should be a formality for the aptly-named Death Duty.
Gigginstown have enjoyed a Fifty Shades of Maroon-esque domination of this race, winning four of the last six renewals, including with the likes of Don Cossack and Valseur Lido, and they have a strong team once more. A three-pronged attack includes Shattered Love and Dinaria des Obeaux, who, like Pussy Riot (not that type Damian), can both put up stern challenges to their male rivals.
Of the others, Rathvinden has experience on his side and has taken his form up a notch on his last two starts, while the smart staying hurdler Snow Falcon shaped with promise on his chase debut at Naas earlier this month and isn’t discounted too readily.