Monday 20 November 2017

Fairyhouse set for fire raid

Champion Hurdle runner-up primed to bag top honours by beating Clondaw

Arctic Fire, with David Casey up, at last year's Cheltenham
Arctic Fire, with David Casey up, at last year's Cheltenham

On first glance the fields for tomorrow's three Grade One races at Fairyhouse are probably a shade disappointing but this is a meeting that continually throws up future champions and it is still possible that may indeed be the case again tomorrow afternoon.

Names such as Moscow Flyer, Solerina, Limestone Lad, Hardy Eustace, Newmill, Brave Inca, Voler La Vedette, Hurricane Fly, Jezki and Don Cossack have all won at this meeting in the past and that is to name just a few.


The highlight is the Hatton's Grace Hurdle in which Annie Power was due to be the star attraction but in her place we have a Champion Hurdle runner-up, Arctic Fire.

Arctic Fire has only been out of the first four in the two races he failed to finish and he had to settle for minor honours in six Grade One races and he's a worthy favourite to finally bag a top level win on this occasion.

It is hard to envisage that Arctic Fire will go on and improve again to the level that is needed to beat his own stable companions Faugheen and Nichols Canyon but that does remain to be seen.

First of all he has to end the unbeaten record of another Closutton resident, Clondaw Court who, including his point-to-point, is unbeaten in five starts but has obviously been frustrating to train as they have been the eight-year-olds only five starts in over three years.

He certainly appears to want every bit of the two and a half miles of tomorrow's trip and adds plenty of intrigue to the race, as does a horse called Gwencily Berbas.

Trained on the edge of the Curragh by Alan Fleming, this four-year-old has only had three starts for his connections and the most recent of them was an impressive seasonal debut which suggests he is working his way up through the ranks nicely.

Arctic Fire certainly has enough opposition to keep him honest but it's hard to see him being turned over on all known form so far.

The Drinmore Novice Chase doesn't have the likes of a Douvan who was a stand out novice hurdler but Monksland was a Grade One performer over hurdles and makes a quick reappearance for Noel Meade after opening his account over the bigger obstacles last weekend.

Gordon Elliott may hold the key here though and he has two really likeable sorts in No More Heroes and Free Expression.

Both were very highly thought of last season and No More Heroes has been aimed here since winning at Punchestown at the end of last month, while Free Expression was probably a shade unlucky behind Outlander and comes here renewing that rivalry with Willie Mullins' seven-year-old so there's plenty to like in this race also.


Shantou Flyer has the most impressive form figures coming into the race having racked up a hat-trick for Colin Bowe and while the five-year-old probably wants further, he could be the type of horse who makes his experience count in a race like that and may run way above his odds of 20/1.

Allez Colombieres was sent off favourite for the Royal Bond Novice Hurdle last year on his Irish debut for Willie Mullins but he sadly suffered a fatal injury after just two hurdles and the race was won by Nichols Canyon.

Mullins will run two this year again, both we have seen plenty of and both are unbeaten over hurdles this year.

Despite being 3lbs inferior to Bachasson, Ruby Walsh has opted to ride Long Dog who drops back in trip for his first Grade One assignment.

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