'Freedom' takes steps to Festival
Meetings offer insight into raiders' pre-Cheltenham form
DUNDALK on Friday night and Gowran Park on Saturday will stage two different codes, but both should offer an insight into Cheltenham Festival hopefuls.
The Jessica Harrington-trained Steps To Freedom is one of just eight entries for the last race at Dundalk on Friday evening, as he has his final prep before a tilt at the Supreme Novices' Hurdle.
The 102-rated gelding on the flat is unbeaten on all three starts over hurdles and, despite only winning a maiden on the level, he subsequently ran some very nice races.
Steps To Freedom is already a winner around Cheltenham, having been brought over by Harrington to win a novice contest there in November and, having enjoyed a break since then, he will go to Dundalk prior to heading to Leopardstown for a racecourse gallop before the Festival.
However, Harrington yesterday admitted that Bostons Angel is unlikely to take his place in the Gold Cup.
She said: "He ran better on Sunday than he did at Sandown the time before, but I'd say it's unlikely he'll run in the Gold Cup now.
"There is a race at Fairyhouse for him in a couple of weeks' time, so he'll probably go there next."
Robbie Hennessy's Rubi Light is by far the top rated of nine entries for the Grade Two Red Mills Chase on Saturday at Gowran Park.
A faller at the Kilkenny track on his seasonal debut when appearing to have Sizing Europe well held, Rubi Light will return to Cheltenham for the Ryanair Chase next month having been third in the race last year.
Apt Approach appears his biggest threat after he completed a hat-trick recently, but Rubi Light is likely to be odds-on to win the race for a second year in a row.
There was no Binocular among the entries for the Red Mills Hurdle on the same card, as connections of the former Champion Hurdle winner have now opted to go straight to the Festival without a run.
Binocular did get a surprise entry for the reopened Kingwell Hurdle this weekend, but a racecourse gallop is the favoured option for the 2010 Champion Hurdle winner.
Willie Mullins dominates the entries for the Grade Two two-mile hurdle with Mikael D'Haguenet, So Young and Zaidpour the pick of the 13 entries.
Also in the race are former winner Luska Lad, the Charles Byrnes-trained Pittoni, and Edward O'Grady's Staying Article.
Saturday's abandoned Newbury card will now go ahead on Friday at the same track, and Gold Cup winner Long Run will face a possible seven rivals in the Betfair Denman Chase, with What A Friend the closest to him on official ratings.
Triumph Hurdle winner and Champion Hurdle hopeful Zarkandar remains on schedule for his seasonal bow in the Betfair Hurdle.
And the meeting of Sprinter Sacre and Cue Card is back on in the Betfair Super Saturday Chase.