Big guns to be unleashed
Heavy rainfall yesterday will have been very welcome for many trainers in Ireland and racecourse managers alike and both Naas and Navan could host Grade One winning horses this weekend.
At Naas on Saturday, the Gavin Cromwell-trained Jer's Girl is among the entries for the Grade Three Fishery Lane Hurdle for four-year-olds only.
Last season's Grade One-winning juvenile provided Cromwell with a breakthrough winner at the top level and the daughter of Jeremy, owned by JP McManus, is also among the entries for Navan 24 hours later.
The Grade Two Lismullen Hurdle has attracted 12 entries, including last weekend's Naas victor De Plotting Shed as well as the Willie Mullins-trained Shaneshill, who was second in the RSA Chase over fences at the Cheltenham Festival last season before reverting to hurdles and following home Thistlecrack at Aintree.
Willie Mullins currently trails Gordon Elliott by 39 winners in Ireland this season and has yet to unleash his major charges for the campaign ahead but yesterday's entries provide a signal of what is to come over the coming weeks as Un De Sceaux is also in Navan.
The 169-rated Un De Sceaux heads the nine entries for the Fortria Chase, which also features the Kerry Lee-trained Top Gamble who made a fruitful trip to County Meath last season when winning the Grade Two Normans Grove Chase at the Fairyhouse Easter Festival back in April.
Mullins has also included Ballycasey while highly-rated Gilgamboa and last weekend's Naas winner Tell Us More offer plenty of depth to Navan's feature contest this weekend.
While such entries mark an increase in the tempo of the Irish National Hunt season, the Open Meeting at Cheltenham will do the same across the water, although they too will be glad to have welcomed plenty of rainfall owing to the unseasonal quick ground conditions.
So quick is the ground at the Cotswolds venue that the Cross Country Chase will have to take place on a different day. That said, the meeting has still attracted some decent Irish entries.
Identity Thief could head over there on Sunday but is more likely to wait a week and go to Punchestown for the Craddockstown Novice Chase, according to his trainer Henry de Bromhead, although the in-form Waterford trainer is due to be represented at Cheltenham this weekend.
Special Tiara is one of eight entries De Bromhead has made for Cheltenham this weekend and also eyeing up the meeting is Peter Fahey as he plans on sending over three-time hurdle winner Peregrine Run. Fahey is eyeing up the spring festivals with the six-year-old and is likely to run Peregrine Run on Friday rather than later in the weekend.
"He has two options at Cheltenham but is more than likely to go for the Neptune Investment Management Novices' Hurdle on the Friday," Fahey said.
"His performances this season have been very good and he seems to be an improving horse.
"Since he won his maiden hurdle, he has been thriving and improving with each run.
"Providing the ground is on the nice side, he should run a good race on Friday.
"Once the ground softens, we might try him over two miles and see how he gets on but we won't keep him too busy him over the winter.
"We will have him back for the spring festivals."