Team Jezki plotting a fall from Grace for last year's winner Zaidpour
THE Punchestown Festival's Herald Champion Novice Hurdle winner Jezki will attempt to extend his winning sequence to three on the bounce when he faces his toughest task yet in Sunday's Bar One Racing Hatton's Grace Hurdle at Fairyhouse.
Jessica Harrington's 161-rated hurdler finished third in last season's Supreme Novices' Hurdle at Cheltenham and returned to win the feature novice event at the Punchestown Festival in April before winning his seasonal debut at Down Royal at the beginning of November.
Connections opted against starting the five-year-old in the Morgiana Hurdle at Punchestown, where he'd have had to face Hurricane Fly, in favour of starting off over 2m4f on Sunday where he will now take on last year's winner Zaidpour (pictured) and Mouse Morris' highly regarded Rule The World.
Grade One-winning juvenile hurdler Diakali is also likely to represent Willie Mullins, while Gordon Elliott's Fred Winter winner Flaxen Flare also features, while it will be interesting to see how Dedigout fares out having been supplemented by Gigginstown on the advice of Tony Martin.
The first of Sunday's three Grade One races see's Eddie Harty's Minella Foru put his unbeaten record on the line when he faces a top class field of novices including Very Wood. Willie Mullins includes Alonso, who was a 23-length winner of a Wexford maiden, along with Renneti, who was eased down to record a 13-length success at Downpatrick.
It could be a big day for the Moone outfit of Jessica Harrington whose Gambling Girl carries a lofty reputation and she will be in receipt of at least 7lbs from all her rivals and 10lbs from the five-year-olds who include the supplemented The Tullow Tank.
Henry de Bromhead's Sizing Rio will try and make it three from three over fences in the Grade One Drinmore Novice Chase where he tackles the Gordon Elliott-trained Don Cossack in what is sure to be a rare Grade One in Ireland without a Willie Mullins-trained runner.
In the absence of a Mullins representative, Ruby Walsh is therefore free to renew his association with Tom Taaffe's Gold Bullet, who was impressive at Down Royal earlier in the month, while the interesting inclusion to this race is Galway Plate-winner Carlingford Lough who steps out of the big handicaps to contest a Grade One novice.
Proceedings get under way on Sunday with the Bar One Racing Juvenile Hurdle which was won last year by the Dessie Hughes-trained Our Conor and Analifet will attract all the attention here after her very impressive Irish debut for Willie Mullins at Punchestown a fortnight ago.
Mullins wasn't shy in displaying how highly regarded she is, while decent Navan winner Gerdago steps up in class for Ken Condon.
They also race at Fairyhouse tomorrow with a Grade B Handicap Chase and Grade B Handicap Hurdle the two feature races and in the chase John Monroe's Muzak is on a four-timer, while over hurdles Captain Cee Bee tops the weights for Eddie Harty and JP McManus.