A huge - and very busy - day ahead for Gordon Elliott and his team as they saddle 24 runners, including a few stable stars, at Fairyhouse on Sunday afternoon...
"This race is going to require a career best but there is plenty more to come from our horse and I'll be disappointed if he's not closely involved."
- Gordon Elliott on Ballyadam
*Best Chance: Ballyadam (13:05)
Heart could run well despite being weighted up to her best
Make My Heart Fly is a grand mare. She is tough and honest and loves her racing and she rarely runs a bad race. She is more of a summer mare but she is fine once the ground isn't too soft and the dry week will have helped her in that regard. She doesn't have anything in hand and is weighted up to her best but I wouldn't be surprised to see her show up well.
Robin Deuz Pois is coming back off a break so she will improve for this. Ideally I would prefer if this race was over a longer trip and maybe this grade of handicap is just too good for her. If I'm honest I was disappointed that she didn't win last time at Down Royal and this does look a much better race so she could well be up against it.
Both capable of running very nice races
Glorious Zoff was quite impressive when winning at Sligo on his debut for us. He then got beaten in Sedgefield but I think he is better than the bare result there would suggest and he was probably a bit unlucky the way the race developed. He is a useful horse and is better than he showed last time so hopefully he will run a nice race.
Zanahiyr is a lovely three-year-old and I was delighted with his first start over hurdles at Ballinrobe last month when he came out the right side of a good finish with Dark Voyager. I think he has progressed for that run and the switch to this galloping track will suit him well and his first experience of running over hurdles should have taught him plenty too. All things considered I'm expecting a good step forward from him and he should give a good account of himself. I hope he will hold his own in good company for the rest of the season.
Plenty more to come from hot prospect Ballyadam
Our chief hope for this race is Ballyadam. Since he came to us from the point-to-point field he has looked like a horse with Grade 1 potential and now is his chance to prove it. He ended last season with an impressive bumper win at Downpatrick after which Jamie (Codd) was very excited by him and you'd have to be impressed with what he showed when winning his maiden hurdle at Down Royal last month. He did everything right that day and showed me that this was the obvious race to aim for with him. This race is going to require a career best but there is plenty more to come from our horse and I'll be disappointed if he's not closely involved.
One Down is a grand horse who has already won over hurdles this season and he has since posted two solid efforts in defeat. I thought he ran as well as he's ever done when he was fourth in the For Auction Novice Hurdle at Navan last time and his previous effort at Sligo was a good one too. He is up against it here but he is in very good form and will enjoy the ground so we will let him take his chance and see can he pick up some of the minor money.
The Very Man will be having his last run in novice company as he loses his novice status after this weekend. He took a while to win his maiden hurdle but then hit a great run of form in the spring and summer and he was going to run very well in a good handicap hurdle at Down Royal last month only to part company with his rider at the second last. He is a consistent and reliable type who should run his race and I could see him running creditably but a few of these should be too strong for him.
Dream very much still alive for Allen
Coko Beach is a very smart horse on his day and was just touched off in the Fred Winter at Cheltenham a couple of seasons ago. I was very pleased with his first run over fences at Galway last month when he finished a good second to Pencilfulloflead and that form already looks good with the winner having gone on to win a Grade 2. That run entitles him to take up his engagement here but I would say he has his work cut out against Envoi Allen.
We have many who could run well but Milan Native is one of our best chances
Milan Native won the Kim Muir at Cheltenham last season and looks tailor made for races like this. He was no match for Minella Indo at Wexford last time but I think he was just not good enough to compete with a top class staying chaser that day and back in this company he should run well. He is one of our best chances of winning this race.
Death Duty has had his injury troubles but we've had a clear run with him over the last twelve months or so and I think he will win a nice handicap at some stage. His comeback run in the Troytown was a respectable one and he has come forward for that run while I think he might enjoy this trip too. He could run well.
Dounikos blew up in the Troytown last time as that was his first run of the season and only his second one this year. He's in good shape and I'm happy with he is going at home and we know that he has the ability to run well in races like this.
Roaring Bull won last season's Paddy Power Chase and came back to something like that form when he was second in the Troytown. He's not the easiest to predict but he's a good handicapper on his day and will run well if putting his best foot forward.
Monbeg Notorious is an out and out stayer who won the Thyestes Chase for us a couple of seasons ago. He rediscovered a bit of form in the spring when he won a conditions chase at Down Royal and this sort of test is right up his street but he does tend to need his first run of the season.
Cheb De Kerviniou is another strong stayer and this sort of trip is right up his street. I was happy with his run in the Troytown which he would have needed and I did think that race would act as a perfect prep for this. For the last couple of months I thought he was an ideal type for this race but I would like the ground a bit softer for him as he seems to be at his best on a testing surface.
General Principle is a former Irish Grand National winner over this course and distance. He's not getting any younger and maybe this sort of handicap is beyond him these days but I think he has run much better on his last two starts than his form figures would suggest and he is still showing a lot of enthusiasm for the game. I still think he will be competitive in a few of these good staying handicaps and this track does bring out the best in him so I wouldn't totally dismiss him.
Out Sam is another one of ours who will love this distance. He too is getting on in years but I thought he ran quite a nice race when he was fifth in the Cork National last time out. His jumping can be a bit chancy which doesn't help in races like this but he showed at Cork last time he could still get competitive in decent handicaps when everything falls right so hopefully he can run another solid race.
Fury's cruising speed can see him show up well
Cracking Smart is quite an idle horse and over the last couple of seasons I've noticed that he he's not really at his best until the spring time so he is best watched for the time being I would say. He would have needed his comeback in the Lismullen Hurdle when he was well beaten when falling and he has come forward for that run but in reality he has it all to do here.
Fury Road came out of his recent win at Punchestown in great shape. He is very well in himself and it will be interesting to see how he gets on here as I think the trip might be a little on the sharp side for him but he is a horse with a high cruising speed and I don't think he needs a stamina test to be seen at his best. He's got a bit of work to do to get involved but I think he could show up well.
Eclair can contend in races like this now back over hurdles
Eclair De Beaufeu is switching back to hurdles as he has a mark which should see him get competitive in some of the good two mile handicaps this season. He was on the verge of winning a good handicap as a novice hurdler and I think he has some unfinished business in races like this. He was unlucky to fall over fences at Navan last time but was none the worse for that and his run there should have brought him on. He might just be a little rusty for his return to hurdles but I think he will contend for races like this over the next few months.
Campeador should have won this race a few years ago when he fell at the last when looking sure to win. Since then he has struggled to return to that level of form but his last run at Down Royal was his most encouraging for some time and if he could progress on that he would be able to show up well.
Gold Des Bois can be a bit free so I'm hoping this will be run at a strong gallop which should help him to settle. He's a horse with plenty of ability and I think races like this where they can go a stride quick will work in his favour. He will need to improve on his last couple of runs but I do think there is a bit more to come from him as a hurdler.
Hot race but both are capable and could run well
Champagne Sparkles is a nice horse with a good way of going at home. He has been ready to run for a couple of weeks and I am hoping for a solid effort from him but I think he could be quite raw and green and whatever he does here he will improve plenty on.
Grand Paradis a nice type of horse and he's by a top sire in Martaline and he's a half-brother to a couple of very useful horses in France. He's been coming together well over the last few weeks and his recent work has suggested to me that he should be able to hold his own in a bumper. I think he will run well but this can be a pretty hot race so you could finish fourth or fifth in this and still be a very nice horse.