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The big day at Fairyhouse gets underway with a small field going to post for the opening 2m 4f Mares Handicap Chase. HURRICANE GEORGIE looks nicely in at the weights for Gordon Elliott and can build on her second in graded company at Punchestown last month.
She’ll enjoy the ground conditions with the slight step-up in trip playing to her advantage. Bridge Native gives away plenty of weight to rivals despite Jack Foley’s 5Ibs claim, while The Sliding Rock is another contender for the Cullentra House team.
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FIL DOR was very impressive on his Irish debut when winning at Down Royal and can progress further on that performance by winning this Grade 3 Juvenile Hurdle. The French import settled and jumped well in a race run at a slow pace, before showing a nice kick when stepping into gear and seeing off two decent rivals.
Lunar Power is the obvious danger following his win at Punchestown, while Max Mayham (rated 95) when winning on the Flat looks an interesting recruit to hurdling and shouldn’t be dismissed for Robcour.
The Royal Bond looks a cracker and has always been a race I’ve loved over the years with many star names on the role of honour – including Hurricane Fly, who won in game fashion in 2008. This year’s renewal doesn’t disappoint, with MY MATE MOZZIE the selection to remain unbeaten under rules. Mark Walsh felt there was more left in the tank despite jumping right at Navan and this ground and track will play to his strengths on Sunday.
Three Stripe Life has been highly regarded by Gordon Elliott and ran a credible fourth in the Champion Bumper in March. The son of Leading Light, along with stablemate Mighty Potter, beat very little and won as expected at Down Royal and here at Fairyhouse first time over hurdles.
Elsewhere, Colm Murphy of Brave Inca fame knows a good horse and Impervious is a serious player receiving the allowance, with Uhtred expected to appreciate a strong gallop following victory at Naas.
Another exciting novice as the Winter Festival continues with the Grade 1 Drinmore Novice Chase up next for punters – what a contest in store. The Michael and Eddie O’Leary have a strong hand with Beacon Edge, Fury Road, Fire Attack and Midnight Run in the line-up. Gabyanko should uphold the form with Fury Road in my opinion after Gavin Cromwell’s horse came out on top here earlier this month. Meanwhile, there have been good reports suggesting Beacon Edge has improved from his debut at Down Royal for Noel Meade.
However, I believe fences are the making of LIFETIME AMBITION, with Jessica Harrington’s six-year-old impressing me on his chasing debut up North. Katie Harrington reported his jumping in a different league when schooling early doors over fences, and he can only improve further with Vaillier subsequently enhancing the form. Sean O’Keeffe remains in the saddle and despite been inferior to plenty of these over hurdles, I’m hoping he can develop into a nice novice chaser this season.
Coco Beach sets the standard as the highest rated horse and could give Gordon Elliott another big handicap success following Run Wild Fred in the Troytown last weekend. The former Thyestes winner can only improve from a seasonal return at Down Royal when fourth to Envoi Allen at an inadequate trip. The son of Cokoriko will appreciate this 3m 5f distance, but might be best watched on this occasion due to the good ground conditions.
THE DABBLER has an each-way chance for Liam Cusack and Conor Orr following a consistent year, which included victories at Ballinrobe and Gowran Park. The son of Presenting returns after a short break and will appreciate the trip and dry ground in a race which has been a good one for horses towards the bottom end of the handicap. Elsewhere, Forza Milan is very much a player for James Nash having finished fourth off a 3Ibs lower mark in this race last year.
HONEYSUCKLE makes her seasonal reappearance hoping to follow in the hoofprints of both Solerina and Apple’s Jade by winning a third consecutive Hatton’s Grace Hurdle. There are not many superlatives left to describe the amazing achievements of Henry De Bromhead’s mare following her wins at Cheltenham and Punchestown earlier this year. She returns to this trip for the first time since victory last year in a race which she just did enough in to win against Ronald Pump and Beacon Edge.
The big question is whether she’ll be vulnerable on her comeback against a race fit Saldier, who impressed at both Galway and Tipperary. The Mullins team will no-doubt have a tactical plan with Stormy Ireland also in the line-up, but it’s hard to get away from Honeysuckle’s class and her allowance. Last season was by far her best campaign to date, so it will be more than interesting to see if she’s still up for the challenge defending some big prizes in the months ahead.
Gordon Elliott has tasted success twice in this closing bumper in the last three seasons, including victory with Envoi Allen in 2018. SA FUREUR wears a hood on debut with the son of Walk In The Park related to several winners including King’s Odyssy and Sandymount Rose. He gets the vote to score in the finale under Jamie Codd, with Data Breach and Royal Romeo looking the biggest dangers.
The Willie Mullins newcomer is closely related to a 5-furlong winner and is a first crop of Peher’s Moon. Elsewhere, Royal Romeo should improve for his debut second at Down Royal, but the Elliott camp have a line on his ability after he chased home American Mike on that occasion. The other horse I would keep a close eye on in the betting is Western Walk, who could outrun his price for Gavin Cromwell being a half-brother to multiple winner Churchstonewarrior.
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