Fairyhouse's Easter Festival meeting begins on Sunday, and Alan Dudman looks at the big races on the card. He also has one bet for the action at Cork...
"I'm looking forward to seeing how Winter Escape bounces back after breaking blood vessels at Leopardstown in February. Prior to that setback, he looked an exciting novice with victories at Cork, Galway and Punchestown."
De Bromhead could have interesting handicap debutante
With two Grade 1s on the card and a competitive handicap, it's a good start to Fairyhouse's Easter Grand National meeting, and Sunday is a day for the novices and the future stars.
There aren't any future stars in the 14:20 race over hurdles however, but Henry De Bromhead's Embrum Mitja was pitched into hot company on his last outing during the Dublin Racing Festival behind Commander Of Fleet. Okay, it was a complete no-show, but it was a big hike up in class from his debut victory at Naas.
I thought he looked a good prospect on that occasion over 2m3f with a neat performance on first start. He didn't look slow but he stayed on nicely up the Naas finish. He goes handicapping from 129, and he's the one who could be a lot better than his current mark. His jockey Hugh Morgan hasn't ridden many winners, but he scored for the yard on one at Wexford recently, and takes off 7lb. The 13.012/1 last night looked high enough to take a punt on.
Honeysuckle missed Cheltenham but can score here
We have a large field for the Grade 1 mares' race at 14:50, although it is often the case in these affairs, that plenty can be ruled out with no chance. We'll get an opportunity to test the Dawn Run form at Cheltenham against a horse who missed that race following a setback - Henry De Bromhead's really exciting mare Honeysuckle. Potentially she is the one on the day who could turn out to be top class.
This race was priced up on the Sportsbook on Friday, and Honeysuckle was at 15/8. Those initial odds mean that her impressive Grade 3 win at Fairyhouse (won last year by Laurina) could be better than the Festival race, or the market is expecting her to improve again, I suspect it's a little bit of both. The Grade 3 that Honeysuckle landed looked a competitive race and she was well clear of Tintangle by 17 lengths. That horse went on to finish third at Prestbury Park.
Honeysuckle looks dead straightforward and is a no-nonsense sort of ride. She's versatile with wins at 2m, 2m2f and 2m4f, and acts on good ground. There isn't an awful lot to find fault with. The setback before the Festival was a blow clearly, but that could be to her advantage as she'll be fresher than those that competed.
The Dawn Run win of Willie Mullins' Eglantine Du Seuil (pictured below) came from nowhere. She won at Cheltenham at a huge BSP of 96.62 and hit a high of 150 in-play. She settled better and goes up in trip, but it's hard to take that victory at face value.
Gordon Elliott's Tintangle also steps up, and Sunday's distance of 2m4f could be a bit more to her liking, but she has 17 lengths to find with Honeysuckle on their previous meeting at Fairyhouse, and there's every chance that her conqueror that day is still improving.
She could be a place bet with the new distance in mind, but it's very hard to be original and get away from the favourite. You can click here to read Elliott's view on his chances in the race.
Return to Fairyhouse can spark Quamino into action
With only nine in the field for a handicap chase at 15:50, it's disappointing not to have enough for four places and the each-way angle. I have backed Impact Factor before and he's proving to be somewhat frustrating over fences considering his hurdling form. He's now 0-8 chasing and should be able to win a race from his current mark, so he is one to consider coming down in trip, as he didn't appear to get home last time over 2m4f.
However, if they go a decent pace here, it could suit Paul Nolan's Quamino - who I am hoping can bounce back after flopping at Cheltenham. It could have been the soft ground on that occasion, but nothing would have beaten A Plus Tard that day. Wasn't he well-handicapped!
Quamino is a tremendous jumper and he gallops well. His fencing really caught the eye when he won at the track as a novice earlier in the season. His jumping was also on show again when he won a similar sort of race at Leopardstown in February. Those two wins were on good ground, so the drying conditions and a decent surface should play to his strengths.
I am hoping Impact Factor makes the running here, and could present a trade, but Quamino has form over 2m5f and likes the track, and should be strongest at the finish. I like his chances.
Lay Mengli and back Winter Escape
It's the usual Mullins v Elliott match-up here for the Grade 1 Ryanair Gold Cup for novices, with the two trainers dominating the race. I will look to take on Mengli Khan with an in-running low. He ran much better than I anticipated at Cheltenham and travelled quite well at Aintree. He was matched in defeat at 3.55 and 2.55 in those races, but he's a horse who doesn't win often.
A lay of around evens could be placed in Keep Bets.
I'm looking forward to seeing how Winter Escape bounces back after breaking blood vessels at Leopardstown in February. Prior to that setback, he looked an exciting novice with victories at Cork, Galway and Punchestown. The victory at the latter came at the hands of A Plus Tard, and he was giving him a stone. He isn't ground dependant with winning form on yielding, soft and good.
Rated 150, he still has untapped potential as a novice.
About time Tully got his head in front
Over to Cork, one horse that I am keen to back is Tully East in the 15:40 - one of the handicap hurdles on the card.
The selection is a former Cheltenham Festival winner, and he hasn't really got going in some very competitive handicaps this season. Two runs came over an inadequate 2m trip, whilst
his latest effort was in the Coral Cup. He didn't run too badly on that occasion and stayed on late. He has been eased down to 135 now, and is down to a mark he can certainly
He usually is given a patient ride and held up for a late attack. He looks as though he wants a trip these days, and that could suit in this race as a couple of the last time out winners have winning form over further. Certainly in the case of Rocky's Silver - who has scored at 3m.
He isn't a huge price at around 4.507/2, but I do see him as the likeliest winner.
Back Embrun Mitja @ 13.012/1 in the 14:20 at Fairyhouse
Back Honeysuckle @ 2.982/1 in the 14:50 at Fairyhouse
Back Quamino @ 9.4017/2 in the 15:50 at Fairyhouse
Lay Mengli Khan in-running @ 1.804/5 in the 16:25 at Fairyhouse
Back Winter Escape @ 5.04/1 in the 16:25 at Fairyhouse
Back Tully East @ 4.507/2 in the 15:40 at Cork