Fairyhouse scene-setter whets appetite for racing in Meath

Apple's Jade will be looking to write her name into the record books at Fairyhouse on December 2nd

Will Reilly looks forward to some exciting winter racing at Navan and Fairyhouse in County Meath

County Meath racecourses Navan and Fairyhouse are geared up for some top-class racing in the build-up to Christmas.

Navan will stage its €100,000 Troytown Chase meeting on Sunday, November 25th and Bar One Racing is once again delighted to be sponsoring Hatton’s Grace Hurdle day on Sunday, December 2nd at Fairyhouse’s two-day Winter Festival.

With three Grade One races on the Hatton’s Grace card plus a €100,000 two-mile handicap hurdle and over €700,000 in total prize-money – a record amount – it promises to be a day to savour.

Baroneracing.com and Fairyhouse

Bar One Racing’s involvement with the Grade One Royal Bond Novice Hurdle began in 2006. Two years later, the other Grade Ones, the Drinmore Novice Chase and the Hatton’s Grace Hurdle, were added to the sponsorship portfolio.

It has been a happy union as winners at the meeting reads like a Who’s Who of jump racing, including, from last year, Apple’s Jade and leading Cheltenham Gold Cup hope, Presenting Percy.

Apple’s Jade has won the Hatton’s Grace in each of the last two years and will bid to outdo the great dual winner Isatabraq and join Limestone Lad and Solerina as three-time winners of a race named after legendary trainer Vincent O’Brien’s three-time Cheltenham Champion Hurdle winner (1949-51).

Gordon Elliott

At a recent gathering at Fairyhouse to mark the start of National Hunt racing this season in Meath, Gordon Elliott, who was responsible last year for the winner of all three of the Grade 1 races mentioned, said that, because of the dry weather, he hadn’t yet had his horses on grass. He added, though, that “Come Troytown week, the horses should be ready to run”.

Gordon reported that Apple’s Jade kept coming in season during the last campaign but that this is something they feel they are on top of now. She returned for the season with an impressive win in the Grade 2 Lismullen Hurdle at Navan. It’s now all systems go for Fairyhouse and a record-equalling third-successive win in the Hatton’s Grace Hurdle.

A Grade 1-winner last season, Gordon said that Dortmund Park would stay over hurdles this year. He, too, holds a Hatton’s Grace entry.

On Mengli Khan, last year’s Royal Bond winner, he said: “He will go novice chasing and worked well this morning”. He is entered for this year’s Drinmore.

Other Drinmore possibles for Gordon are recent Down Royal winner Delta Work and Blow By Blow but that “everything depends on what happens in the next few weeks”. Blow By Blow has since finished second in the Florida Pearl Novice Chase at Punchestown.

Gordon said that Felix Desjy is “our strongest two-miler (novice hurdler)” but “we are stronger in the three-mile division” and that he was “delighted” with chaser Shattered Love.

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Noel Meade

On last year’s Drinmore third, Snow Falcon, trainer Noel Meade said: “He lives out now, which seems to suit him.” Stable jockey Sean Flanagan said: “He’s got his act together.”

Noel added that Minella Fair, who “will make a nice chaser”, and Moyross are “potentially nice horses” and gave a good mention to School Boy Hours (who ran well when second at Naas on November 10th). He’s a half-brother to Colin Tizzard’s Grade 1 novice chase winner Finian’s Oscar.

Noel also rates three-time bumper runner-up Valdieu very highly. His Down Royal conqueror (on November 3rd), Malone Road, has since won impressively at Punchestown

Brien Kane reported that Gavin Cromwell’s Espoir d’Allen was reported to be “bigger and stronger” this year and that he was “a quality type with plenty of scope”. He won last season’s Grade 3 Bar One Racing Juvenile Hurdle, returned this season to win a Grade 3 contest at Naas and now has the Hatton’s Grace Hurdle in his sights.

Finally, Gordon reported that Farclas had had a minor wind operation and that Carter McKay, who has joined him from Willie Mullins’ stable, will be aimed at the four-miler at the Cheltenham Festival.

With Navan’s Troytown Chase meeting fast approaching and Fairyhouse’s Winter Festival coming up on Saturday and Sunday, December 1st and 2nd, it is safe to say that the jumping season in Ireland is getting into full swing.

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