A GALAXY of stars go on parade at Fairyhouse and this card traditionally throws up Cheltenham festival winners.
The Royal Bond Novice Hurdle has been won by the likes of Hurricane Fly, Dunguib, Jezki and Nichol's Canyon in recent years and last year's champion bumper Envoi Allen is a short price to build on his impressive hurdling debut success at Down Royal. This is a very hot contest with an each-way shape to it if you don't fancy taking the odds about the ‘jolly'. Besides the favourite, Gordon Elliott saddles ABACADABRAS (1.00) with solid ew claims.
He showed good speed throughout in the Champion Bumper, only to fade into fourth spot. Envoi Allen's stamina kicked in up the hill at Cheltenham (he will stay further than today's two miles) but Abacadabras has the engine to get him off the bridle before the home turn.
Joseph O'Brien has another each-way contender in Midnight Run, an emphatic winner at Cork a couple of weeks ago when thumping the Willie Mullins-trained Colreevy. The fact Colreevy beat Abacadabras a length at Punchestown in April (received 7lb) underlines the merit of that form. Embittered finished fourth and has since won a maiden hurdle. It promises to be an exciting contest.
The Drinmore Novice Chase also falls into that bracket with heavyweights FAKIR D'OUDAIRIES (1.30) and Samcro fighting it out for favouritism.
Gordon Elliott has won four of the last six renewals and his roll of honour includes subsequent Cheltenham Gold Cup winner Don Cossack. Samcro posted a Cheltenham festival success in the 2018 Ballymore Novices' Hurdle but his progress has been blighted by a string of dirty scopes. Elliott had him in tip-top condition for his first start over fences when romping home at Down Royal last month and Samcro's career could be ready for take-off once again.
He meets a severe rival of Fakir D'oudairies, with this step up to 2m 4f sure to suit. Joseph O'Brien sent him to Cheltenham with a big shout in the last season's Supreme Novices' Hurdle but he became outpaced coming down the hill before staying on into fourth. Pentland Hills took his measure (by a neck) at Aintree the following month but Fakir D'oudairies looked a natural over fences when striding clear of Melon at Navan last month. A four-year-old has never won the Drinmore but in receipt of 8lb from Samcro he gets the nod.
Willie Mullins is doubly represented by Irish Grand National winner Burrows Saint and the ex-Nicky Henderson stayer Chef Des Obeaux, so he will want to make it a suitable stamina test over this shorter distance.
The Hatton's Grace Hurdle is another intriguing affair, with Apple's Jade seeking a historic fourth straight victory. She didn't fire on all cylinders towards the end of last season and a tame comeback second to Bacardys at Navan suggested we may have seen the best of her. It may be folly writing off the Elliott-trained star but she will do well to contain young pretender HONEYSUCKLE (2.40).
This mare is unbeaten in five races for Henry de Bromhead, four of them coming here at Fairyhouse, and Honeysuckle has looked the real deal. This is the acid test, with 2018 Stayers' Hurdle victor Penhill, returning from a 584-day absence, not out of things if Willie Mullins has him back to his best.
The bumper should also be informative. Envoi Allen won it 12 months ago and Ferny Hollow carries the same Cheveley Park Stud colours. The betting market is always worth checking but bookmakers were taking no chances last night, marking him up a 4-5 shot. He doesn't make much appeal at that price but may drift to more tempting odds before the off.