THE WINTER FESTIVAL AT FAIRYHOUSE is almost upon us. Keep the weekend free – December 3rd and 4th – as some superb racing is once again set to take place. We are sponsoring Sunday’s card, which this year will carry a record €495,000 in prize-money.
Sunday, of course, will see the hugely popular Honeysuckle begin her final season of racing. She will also be out to make history. If she wins the Grade 1 BarOneRacing.com Hatton’s Grace Hurdle she will become the first horse to have won the prestigious contest four times, a four-timer that will have been completed in successive years.
Owned by Kenny Alexander and trained by Henry de Bromhead, Honeysuckle will be accompanied in that record bid by the equally popular Rachael Blackmore, who has partnered her to victory in all 15 of her races under rules.
Her other win came under Mark O’Hare in a point-to-point race. She is unbeaten in 16 races and, furthermore, is the reigning champion hurdler at Leopardstown, Punchestown and, of course, Cheltenham, where she has won the last two Champion Hurdles at the most famous of racing festivals.
Her seasonal reappearance will form the focal point of what promises to be another superb day of racing in County Meath.
The first race on Sunday is due off at 11.55am. Saturday’s opener is set for 11.35pm.
SCROLL DOWN this page to see a profile on each of the runners for the three Grade 1 races at Fairyhouse on Sunday, plus selections.
Bar One Racing and the Winter Festival
Sponsored by BarOneRacing.com, the Winter Festival at Fairyhouse is now established as the most-important jumps meeting in Ireland this side of Christmas.
With three Grade One races on Sunday, including the €120,000 Hatton’s Grace Hurdle, a €100,000 handicap hurdle, the Porterstown Handicap Chase, a Grade 3 juvenile hurdle, a mares’ handicap chase, and a list of big-race winners that would grace any roll of honour, it is easy to understand why.
Bar One Racing’s involvement began in 2006 through sponsorship of the Royal Bond Novice Hurdle. Two years later, the meeting’s other Grade 1 races, the Drinmore Novice Chase and the Hatton’s Grace Hurdle, became part of Bar One Racing’s sponsorship portfolio.
It has been a happy and successful partnership with Fairyhouse ever since, a time that is laced with great memories, and this year promises to be no exception.
We look forward to seeing you there.
Here are PROFILES on each of the runners for Sunday’s three Grade 1 races at Fairyhouse, with selections.
The €120,000 Grade 1 BarOneRacing.com Hatton’s Grace Hurdle, 2m3f130y
Honeysuckle will be bidding to win the Hatton’s Grace Hurdle for the fourth-successive year.
Race time on Sunday is 2:30pm
The Hatton’s Grace Hurdle is named after the legendary Vincent O’Brien’s three-time Champion Hurdle-winner and has been won by such champions as Danoli, Dorans Pride, Large Action, Istabraq, Limestone Lad, Solerina, Brave Inca, Hurricane Fly, Jezki, Apple’s Jade and, for the last three years, Honeysuckle.
The great mare, who is unbeaten in 16 career starts, will be retired at the end of the season so there are very few opportunities remaining to see her and Rachael Blackmore, who has ridden in each of her 15 victories under rules, which includes 12 Grade 1 contests, competing on a racecourse.
As at 12.30pm Saturday December 3rd, Honeysuckle was 4/11 fav, followed by Klassical Dream at 5/1, Echoes In Rain, 10/1, 16/1 bar
Ashdale Bob – Rated 152, trained by Jessica Harrington – He finished third in the Coral Cup at the Cheltenham Festival and second to Klassical Dream at the Punchestown Festival, beaten one-and-a-quarter lengths at level weights, with Sire Du Berlais in fourth, beaten four lengths at level weights. That was over 2m7.5f. Ashdale Bob finished third in a Grade 2 hurdle at Naas on November 13th so arrives here fit
Darver Star – Rated 149, Gavin Cromwell – Now 10, he finished third in the Royal Bond at this meeting in 2019 and ran Honeysuckle to half-a-length at Leopardstown in February 2020. He’s not the same force now but he’s been expertly handled in getting back to form in winning his last three races. However, this is a step up again.
Klassical Dream – Rated 163, Willie Mullins – See Ashdale Bob – He’s a classy staying hurdler; he finished fifth in the Stayers’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival in March but is better judged on his Punchestown run referred to above under Ashdown Bob above. Among his big-race wins is the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle at the 2019 Cheltenham Festival. He was reported on Wednesday to have worked very well on Tuesday ahead of the weekend.
Saldier – Rated 160, Willie Mullins – He was beaten 32 lengths when fifth in last year’s Hatton’s Grace Hurdle and has had just three runs since then, including when third to State Man in the Grade 1 Morgiana Hurdle at Punchestown on November 20th. I thought he would at least get placed in last year’s Hatton’s Grace but, in the end, was well beaten so has something to prove based on that.
Sire Du Berlais – Rated 155, Gordon Elliott – See Ashdale Bob – Now 10, prior to the Punchestown race mentioned above under Ashdale Bob, he won the Grade 1 Liverpool Hurdle at Aintree. He had a pipe-opener for this at Navan on November 13th and is classy. For example, he was second in the Stayers’ Hurdle at Cheltenham in 2021 and, as mentioned, won a Grade 1 race at Aintree in April.
Teahupoo – Rated 158, Gordon Elliott – His record at Fairyhouse is 112. He’s just a five-year-old but has won Grade 2 and 3 hurdles but finished last of ten behind Honeysuckle in the Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham Hurdle in March and last of six behind her in the Champion Hurdle at the Punchestown Festival in April. That leaves him with something to prove. He’s young so is open to improvement, but he will need to find it in terms of winning.
Echoes In Rain – Rated 150, Willie Mullins – She finished second in the valuable Irish Cesarewitch on the flat last time out and, also, won at the Galway Festival on the flat in July. She was beaten three lengths by Honeysuckle in the Champion Hurdle at Punchestown in April and was seven lengths behind her in the Champion Hurdle at Leopardstown in February. Those were solid runs and, still only six, she most likely has more to come.
Honeysuckle – Rated 165, Henry de Bromhead – She’s unbeaten in 16 races, 12 of them Grade 1 races, and has won the last two Champion Hurdles at the Cheltenham Festival. She also won the Champion Hurdle at Leopardstown in February and Punchestown in April and is bidding for a fourth-successive win in this prestigious contest. She’s the queen of hurdling, the queen of Fairyhouse, where she is unbeaten in seven runs, and for many the queen of racing. This will the first race of her final season on the racetrack and her appearance will undoubtedly boost the crowd numbers on this big day of racing.
SELECTION – It has to be HONEYSUCKLE, the reigning Queen of Fairyhouse who is looking to set a record by winning the Hatton’s Grace Hurdle for the fourth year in a row. The Willie Millins’ pair of Klassical Dream and Echoes In Rain are obvious each-way plays.
Don Cossack after his 2013 ‘Drinmore’ win
The €85,000 Drinmore Novice Chase, 2m3f165y
Race time on Sunday is 1:55pm
As at 12.30pm on Sat December 3rd, we were betting 11/4 Three Stripe Life, 3/1 Banbridge, 7/2 Mighty Potter, 8/1 bar
The Drinmore has been won in recent years by Cheltenham Gold Cup winner Don Cossack (see pic above) and subsequent Cheltenham Festival winner, Envoi Allen, who also won the 2019 Royal Bond.
Trainer Gordon Elliott has won this race 5 times in the last 9 years, and 6 times in total, including with Don Cossack in 2013. That year, Don Cossack beat Carlingford Lough (2nd) and Road To Respect (3rd), and the trio went on to win a further 12 Grade 1 races between them.
In 2016, Coney Island beat subsequent Grade 2 and 3 winner and Cheltenham Gold Cup and Aintree Grand National-placed Anibale Fly into second, with subsequent 4-time Grade 1 winner Road To Respect in fourth.
Adamantly Chosen – Willie Mullins – He’s won both of his starts over fences, including a Grade 3 race at Punchestown last time out (October 12th) where he beat Visionarian by 3.75 lengths and Midnight Run by five lengths. However, Visionarian will be 7lbs better off at the weights in the Drinmore as he had to carry a penalty at Punchestown owing to a Grade 3 win at Galway in July. It could make things interesting between them.
Authorized Art – Willie Mullins – His chase form now reads as 2111, including a Grade 3 chase at Tipperary last time out over 2m3.5f. He’s a seven-year-old that is on the up and won’t lack for experience.
Banbridge – Joseph O’Brien – He won the ‘Martin Pipe’ at the Cheltenham Festival in March and, last time out, won a Grade 2 chase back at Cheltenham over two miles. Much as he is viewed as a staying prospect by his trainer, he doesn’t lack speed – or ability, for that matter.
El Barra – Willie Mullins – This season has seen him finish third in the Galway Plate (when rated 150), unseat his rider in the Kerry National and, last time, win a Grade 3 novices’ chase at Cork. Shadow Rider was pulled up in that race after jumping moderately. He’s got some good experience under his belt.
Enniskerry – Barry Connell – A Galway chase win, where he beat Midnight Run at level weights by 6.5 lengths, was followed by a victory over the same horse by 4.75 lengths in a Grade 3 race at Roscommon (also at level weights) on September 26th. He’s closely related to, amongst other winners, Voler la Vedette, who won the Hatton’s Grace Hurdle here in 2011. He’s a very promising chaser.
Gaillard du Mesnil – Willie Mullins – He won the Grade 1 Champion Novice Hurdle at the Punchestown Festival in 2021 and has finished third in each of his five races since then. These, though, include a Grade 1 novice chase at Leopardstown in February, the Grade 1 Brown Advisory Novices’ Chase (a race won by L’Homme Presse) at this year’s Cheltenham Festival and, most recently, the Irish Grand National. He was also second to Bob Olinger in the 2021 ‘Ballymore’ at the Cheltenham Festival. He’s rated 156 and is clearly a classy individual. As a six-year-old, he should have further improvement in him. This will, though, be his first run for 230 days.
Mighty Potter – Gordon Elliott – He finished third in last year’s Royal Bond Novice Hurdle but followed that up by winning the Grade 1 Future Champions Novice Hurdle at the Leopardstown Christmas Hurdle. He was then pulled up behind the impressive Constitution Hill in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival before winning the Grade 1 Champion Novices Hurdle at the Punchestown Festival. His sole run this season saw him comfortably win a beginners’ chase at Down Royal on November 4th and he’s a very interesting chasing prospect.
Shadow Rider – Willie Mullins – see El Barra – He easily won a Gowran Park chase on March 12th but, overall, his profile doesn’t make him an obvious winner of the Drinmore this year.
Thedevilscoachman – Noel Meade – A Grade 2 winning hurdler (the Boyne Hurdle at Navan in February, in which he beat Ashdale Bob by a head), he won readily on his chasing debut at Galway on October 30th over 2m6.5f. That was a promising start to chasing, although this will be tougher.
Three Stripe Life – Gordon Elliott – A high-class novice hurdler – for example, he finished second to Sir Gerhard in the ‘Ballymore’ at this year’s Cheltenham Festival and won the Grade 1 Mersey Novices’ Hurdle at Aintree’s Grand National meeting in April – he made a very pleasing start to his chasing career when winning at Naas on November 12th over the trip of 2m4f. He’s a very interesting contender.
Visionarian – Peter Fahey – He won a Grade 3 novice chase at the Galway Festival in July over 2m2f – see Adamantly Chosen
SELECTION – Solid in the betting since the five-day entries were revealed, MIGHTY POTTER, who will be ridden by Jack Kennedy, can add to Gordon Elliot’s excellent record in the Drimore.
The €85,000 Royal Bond Novice Hurdle, 2 miles
Race time on Sunday is 1:25pm
The Royal Bond has been won by such horses as Istabraq, Moscow Flyer, Hardy Eustace, Hurricane Fly, Jezki and Nichols Canyon, each of them a champion in their own right, some of them all-time greats.
Willie Mullins has won this race 5 times in the last 8 years and 9 times in total, while Gordon Elliott has won it 3 times, with those wins coming in the last five years.
Prices as at 12.30pm on Sat December 3rd were 7/4 Champ Kiely, 11/4 Marine Nationale, 6/1 Irish Point, 6/1 Path d’Oroux, 10/1 bar.