Fairyhouse explodes into action this weekend with no less than 3 Grade One contests at the track on Sunday.
I will be covering all 3 races for my subscribers but to get you all warmed up for what is likely to be an action packed weekend of racing I have asked NTF guest blogger Cathryn Fry to provide some thoughts for us on the intriguing looking Hatton’s Grace Hurdle.
Over to you Cathryn –
This Sunday at Fairyhouse there are three Grade One contests; The Royal Bond Novices Hurdle, The Hatton’s Grace Hurdle & The Drinmore Novices Chase.
I’m taking an in depth look at the Hatton’s Grace Hurdle which is run over a distance of 2m4f and is open to horses of four years of age and upwards. It has held Grade One status since its introduction to the Irish racing calendar in 1994, when it was won by the popular Danoli.
Other past winners include the triple Champion Hurdler Istabraq (Hatton’s Grace winner in 97 & 98) 2006 Champion Hurdler Brave Inca (HG winner in 2006) and reigning Champion Hurdler Hurricane Fly took the race last year. Limestone Lad took the race three times (99, 01 & 02) as did Solerina (03, 04 & 05)
The UK has been responsible for one winner in the history of the race; Large Action in 1996.
At the five day stage, seven horses remain out of an original entry of 19.
Final Approach 143 (11-10) One of four horses in the field trained by Willie Mullins. Last seen finishing fifth to stablemate Thousand Stars in the French Champion Hurdle, which was one place ahead of David Pipe’s exciting novice chaser Grands Crus. He had previously won the MCR Hurdle at Leopardstown and The County Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival. Smart and still open to any amount of improvement but is realistically up against it here on what we have seen so far and the form of his opposition. However, there are more big prizes to be taken with this horse.
Mikal D’haguenet 150 (11-10) Hailing from team Mullins, looked to have the world at his feet when winning the Ballymore Properties Hurdle (now the Neptune) at the 2009 Cheltenham Festival then the Champion Novice Hurdle at the 2009 Punchestown Festival. Missed a season through injury in 2009/10, then last season embarked on a chasing campaign that didn’t really go to plan. Ended last season with an 8th place finish behind stablemate Quevega in the World Series Hurdle. Signs of a return to form when 3rd to Voler La Vedette in the Lismullen Hurdle at Navan last time out. One day soon this horse is going to bolt up in a good race, probably not Sunday but his ability remains for sure. He will be one to watch on Sunday with the rest of the season in mind.
Mourad 160 (11-10) Another from team Mullins. Has top class form at the highest level; 4th in the French Champion Hurdle to Thousand Stars, 2nd in the World Series Hurdle to Quevega, 3rd to Big Bucks in the World Hurdle. Prior to all that, he won the Grade Two Galmoy Hurdle at Gowran Park. The 2m4f may just find him wanting a little nowadays but he will be involved. He was a course & distance winner on heavy ground in 2010. Finished fourth in this race last year and one assumes he is on the same path to the World Hurdle again. If it were not for Big Bucks I am convinced this fellow would be a World Hurdler. Thoroughly consistent he has never finished out of the first four in all NH starts. Currently 2nd favourite for this race behind stablemate Thousand Stars.
The Real Article 154 (11-10) Caused controversy when tenderly handled in second place behind Captain Cee Bee at Tipperary in the summer, then finished fourth to Moon Dice in the Galway Hurdle. Has since won two Grade Two contests in good style. Fully deserves this chance in Grade One company. It would be no surprise to see him win this and I am quietly confident we will see him fill a place in the Champion Hurdle in March. Acts on any ground and has never been out of the first four places in all his NH starts.
Thousand Stars 164 (11-10) Without a doubt the first string of Willie Mullins. Favourite for this race and the most likely winner. Tough, versatile, acts on any ground and over a variety of distances. Winner of the French Champion Hurdle & took the Morgiana Hurdle in style last time out. Has also won a County Hurdle and finished fourth in last year’s Champion Hurdle. Top class and seemingly in the form of his life, I cannot readily oppose him here.
Voler La Vedette 151 (11-3) Course & distance winner in April. Won the Grade Two Lismullen Hurdle at Navan last time out in easy fashion, 4th to Quevega in the World Series Hurdle at Punchestown and won the Boyne Hurdle at Navan last season. Was 3rd to Hurricane Fly in this race last year and she will more than likely fill a place again. Gets a 7lb mare’s allowance, acts on any ground and is very tough.
Unaccompanied 142 (10-13) Stylish winner of the Grade One Spring Juvenile at Leopardstown in February, then finished 2nd to Zarkandar in the Triumph Hurdle in a very high class renewal of that race. Runs under both codes and beat St Nicholas Abbey on the level at the Curragh in April. Was over the top when 4th to Grandouet at Punchestown in May. Easily beat Sailors Warn in a listed race at Naas last time out. Being a four year old she is in receipt of the 4lb age allowance and receives an additional 7lb mare’s allowance.
Verdict: I feel Thousand Stars will take all the beating; he is at the peak of his career. However I am extremely interested to see how The Real Article and Unaccompanied perform here.
@cathrynfry on Twitter
Cathryn has been a regular contributor to the fabulous JP Festival blog for some time now and you can view a selection of her writing talents by visiting jpfestival.com
Happy Punting – Ben (NTF)