What a card we have in store on Sunday at Fairyhouse sponsored by ourselves at Bar One Racing. There are three Grade Ones on an eight-race card and all eyes will be on Honeysuckle to see if she can join Apple’s Jade and Solerina winning the Bar One Racing Hatton’s Grace Hurdle for a third year in a row.
Gordon Elliott had his team in flying form at this meeting last year and could be in line for a flying start this year with two very good chances in the first two races on the card.
Colm Murphy has a mare in flying form that could take all the beating in the Royal Bond, while Gavin Cromwell looks to have the ace in the pack in the Drinmore.
12.00 2m4f (2m3f175y) Bar One Racing Sign Up Bet 10 Get 50 Irish EBF Mares Handicap Chase (4yo+)
Gordon Elliott landed four winners on this card last year and could be in line for another good day this year.
THE SLIDING ROCK (9/4) is his representative in this race and she was second to Ballyshannon Rose last time out, which was a very solid run. Her hurdles form was very consistent but she has one piece of form that is standout in context to this race.
She finished second behind Skyace in the Volar Le Vedette Mares Novice Hurdle and that race worked out really well.
If the rain was to come over the weekend it would likely aid her cause but she will be tough to keep out of the frame here in any case.
12.35 2m Bar One Racing Price Boost Juvenile Hurdle (Grade 3) (3yo)
It could be a quick double for the Cullentra team as they unleash FIL DOR (4/7) for his second start over obstacles.
This gelding could not have been any more impressive when seeing off Sea Sessions and Inca Prince at Down Royal by an ever-widening sixteen lengths.
Everything just looked so easy for this horse and there is no doubt that he will improve off the back of it. The ground will be better here but he has placed form on good to soft in France so I don’t see that being an issue. Gordon Elliott has landed this race twice in the last three years with Zanahiyr and Chief Justice.
Fil Dor will be a short-priced favourite but he is very hard to oppose and could be in many notebooks for Prestbury Park in March.
1.05 2m BARONERACING.COM Royal Bond Novice Hurdle (Grade 1) (4yo+)
This race has been won by some very smart types in recent years with the likes of Ballyadam, Envoi Allen and Quick Grabim among the roll of honour.
Airlie Beach used the receipt of weight to her advantage back in 2016 and it could be a similar fate here for the Colm Murphy-trained mare IMPERVIOUS (6/1).
It is very good to see Colm back in the limelight with a good mare following the success the yard had with Brave Inca between 2002 and 2009. This mare has just improved race on race and, if she can step up again, she will be tough to keep out of the placings. She is unbeaten in three starts and impressed me most of all last time out when she stayed on strongly to see off Sit Down Lucky in Grade Three company in Down Royal.
She travels well in her races but she looks to have plenty of tactical speed and stamina in abundance. This will be another step up for her, but when a mare is on the improve it is hard to know when that improvement will end.
She will be dropping back in trip but I think it will be run at a fast pace so she should get a good toe into it.
She will be tough to keep out of the frame here.
1.35 2m4f (2m3f175y) BARONERACING.COM Drinmore Novice Chase (Grade 1) (4yo+)
We move on to the Drinmore Novice Chase and this race has another excellent roll of honour with Envoi Allen, Fakir D’Oudairies and Delta Work the last three winners of this race.
Gavin Cromwell has his team in excellent form this season and looks to have a very smart recruit to this division in GABYNAKO (11/4). I followed this horse last season and he was well-fancied for the Martin Pipe Hurdle a Cheltenham in March but unseated Conor Mc Namara at the first.
His chasing career has started off really well, finishing second behind Noble Yeats at Galway before getting his head in front at Fairyhouse next time out.
His jumping was excellent on that occasion, and if he can improve off the back of that then I would expect him to go very close.
The ground and track will be in his favour and I think he will take plenty of beating.
2.05 3m5f BARONERACING.COM Porterstown Handicap Chase (Grade B) (5yo+)
Willie Mullins hasn’t won this race since 2008 when Arbor Supreme was victorious but he looks to have a very strong chance this time with STONES AND ROSES (9/2) who looks to be an improving type for the Closutton battalions.
This horse was last seen on New Year’s Eve at Punchestown when he travelled like a dream and won going away to see off Screaming Colours and Major Destination in decisive fashion.
Willie Mullins described him as an old-fashioned staying chaser after that victory and it will be interesting to see how the market vibes go ahead of Sunday. He is up in the ratings from 121 to 134 and, while he will have to improve again to contend, there is every chance he may do so.
Most of his better form is on soft conditions so he will appreciate any rain that falls before off-time.
I think he looks a solid each-way proposition here and should be tough to keep out of the frame.
2.40 2m4f BARONERACING.COM Hatton’s Grace Hurdle (Grade 1) (4yo+)
The feature on the day and all eyes will be on Honeysuckle to see if she can join Apple’s Jade, Solerina and Limestone Lad inin becoming a three-time winner of this race. Henry de Bromhead and his team have kicked off the season in scintillating fashion with the likes of Notebook and A Plus Tard impressive winners in recent weeks.
From a betting perspective, the each-way value looks to lie with RONALD PUMP (14/1) having finished second to Honeysuckle in this race last year. Ronald Pump was closing all the way to the line, and if he is ready to go off the back of a break then he could be the one to give her the most to do.
His first run last season was encouraging when he was going to be involved in the Lismullen at Navan when coming down at the last.
He will be a double-figure price but could be staying on strongly in the closing stages and closing on Honeysuckle all the way to the line.
3.10 2m BARONERACING.COM Handicap Hurdle (Grade A) (4yo+)
The penultimate race on the card is a typically-competitive handicap hurdle and it may pay to side with SEVENNA STAR (33/1) for the Emmet Mullins team.
This horse will carry 9st12lbs and will have the services of Alain Cawley and ran a decent race to finish third to Dads Lad and Crassus last time out at Cork.
There has been plenty of money knocking around for this horse on a number of occasions and it wouldn’t surprise me if he shortened in the market approaching race time.
He will likely need to improve to contend here but he might be able to travel off the pace and get into it late. He was a decent flat horse for John Ryan and John Gosden, and if he can get back to anything like that form then he could go close.
I would keep an eye on the market and that should indicate what is expected, but could go close with luck in running.
3.40 2m Bar One Racing Giving Cash Back Daily (Pro/Am) INH Flat Race (4yo)
This looks a tricky finale to the card and the Conor O’Dwyer trained SIXHANDSINMYPOCKET could improve off an encouraging debut effort at Navan when he was a distant second behind the Gordon Elliott-trained Gringo D’Aubrelle.
There were 7.5 lengths back to the third on that occasion and, while he was never going to trouble the winner, he ran well for his first start.
There is no doubt that he will need to improve to get into contention here but I think the winner from Navan is very smart and this race could turn out to be somewhat of a surprise.
This horse will be a small each- way play in the final race of the day but could go close here.