After a tremendous week of tipping at the Cheltenham Festival, Kevin Blake has pulled out two each-way shouts at Fairyhouse on Sunday...
"Atlantic Fairy had the option of going to the Cheltenham Festival for the Mares’ Novice Hurdle, but her connections decided to aim her at this race instead."
The Fairyhouse Easter Festival takes centre stage in the coming days and the card on Sunday looks a particularly challenging one to pull winners out of, but I'll give it my best.
Lady backed to get Easter Festival off to winning start
Whilst in the mindset of embracing a challenge, the first one I'm going to have a crack at is without doubt the trickiest race on the card, the Cawley Furniture Novice Handicap Hurdle (14:20).
This is a race chock-full of unexposed runners, many of whom will be encountering either a sounder surface or a longer trip for the first time. Some of them will be meeting both for the first time. Thus, the field is littered with potential improvers and it isn't simply a case of finding the one with a bit up their sleeve, it's finding the one with most up their sleeve!
The one I've come down on the side of is the Lorna Fowler-trained Lady Heath. The six-year-old was a useful performer in bumpers, making a winning debut at Down Royal and running well in winners' company. Her transition to hurdling has been steady, but there was significant promise in her third run over obstacles in a maiden hurdle at Navan last time.
Settling better in a first-time hood, she jumped adequately and was in a decent position turning in, but she got outpaced after the third-last flight and it wasn't until the run-in that she really hit top gear to get up for third behind Santa Rossa. This represented good improvement on her previous two starts over hurdles and suggested there would be more to come over longer trips in handicap company.
The handicapper has been quite kind in giving her an initial mark of just 107. Considering she has taken a good hold in her races in the past, this bigger field and likely stronger pace should help her relax and the stronger test of stamina over this longer trip should also suit. It wouldn't surprise at all if she found a chunk of improvement on her handicap hurdle debut and ran a big race.
Fairy can produce some more magic
The other race of interest is the Irish Stallion Farms EBF Mares Novice Hurdle (15:20) and Henry De Bromhead may hold the key to it with Atlantic Fairy. The seven-year-old has been lightly raced in her career thus far, but Henry is getting a clear run with her thus far this season and she has rewarded him by winning two of her three starts over hurdles this campaign.
It is her most recent victory in a Listed mares' novice hurdle at Navan that is most relevant to her chance in this contest. It represented a successful step up in class for her and it promised that even better may be forthcoming. Rachael Blackmore sent her straight into the lead and while she wasn't always fluent at her hurdles, she was bossing the race from a fair way out. Her rivals closed on her up the run-in, but Atlantic Fairy gave a fair hint that it was idleness on her part rather than fatigue that led to this.
Atlantic Fairy had the option of going to the Cheltenham Festival for the Mares' Novice Hurdle, but her connections decided to aim her at this race instead. Not having run at that meeting will be an advantage she holds over quite a few of her main rivals in this and that could well prove significant. She also may well be able to get the lead to herself and shouldn't be inconvenienced by this less testing surface. She looks to have strong prospects.