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Dublin: 9°C Thursday 22 April 2021

Mark your Card: your best bets for today’s Grade racing

Christmas comes early for racing fans with a cracking Sunday card at Fairyhouse. Declan Smyth wraps up well to study the form.

Image: ©INPHO/Lorraine O'Sullivan

Royal Bond Novices Hurdle (Grade 1)

FAIRYHOUSE STAGES THE second day of its big weekend this afternoon with three Grade 1 races up for grabs, supported by four other competitive contests.

The Grade 1 Royal Bond Novices Hurdle over 2m is due off at 1.05pm with a few very exciting novices declared among the six runners.

Willie Mullins’ Champagne Fever looks like starting favourite following a sequence of four wins goings back to January. Prior to that he won his point-to-point and finished runner-up to Thomas Edison in a bumper at Leopardstown at Christmas. He won the Cheltenham Bumper in fine style and then won at Punchestown on desperate ground.

He is bred to stay further and jump a fence and indeed the plan was to go chasing this season. However he reappeared at Cork in a maiden hurdle two weeks ago and travelled beautifully to see off a moderate field. Whether he has the kick to win over two miles in this company remains to be seen.

Minsk, from the in-form Dessie Hughes yard, was last seen over hurdles back in February when a close second to Burrenbridge Lad in Grade 2 hurdle at Fairyhouse over 2m.

He reappeared on the flat in September with a placed effort at Listowel and again at the Curragh in October before winning his maiden hurdle at Punchestown over 2m4f on heavy ground. It’s likely he’ll find this afternoon’s trip too short and will have to settle for place money.

Clonbannon Lad and the other two Mullins horses, Midnight Oil and Zuzka, look to have too much to do.

If there’s anyone to take on Champagne Fever, it’s Jessie Harrington’s Jezki. A full brother to Jenari and half-brother to both Jered and Jetson, all smart horses, he started off his career with two bumper wins before disappointing behind Champagne Fever at Cheltenham. There is a popular view that 2m bumper winners generally need further when they go jumping and nowhere is that more true than around Cheltenham.

He was put away before reappearing in a 2m flat race at Navan where he ran with promise before fading and finishing eight lengths back in sixth to Glam Gerry. He then went to a maiden hurdle in Naas where he just got the better of Ally Cascade despite not jumping fluently. The latter went to frank the form at Thurles this week.

It was Jezki’s next race, again at Naas, which really impressed however. He travelled beautifully in the soft to heavy ground and pulled away quite readily to beat Un Beau Matin, who went on to frank the form a week later. Jezki’s jumping was  better than on his previous run although there is still room for improvement.

He might have more speed over two miles than Champagne Fever and given that there should be more improvement from JEZKI, make him the selection.

Drinmore Novice Chase (Grade 2)

Only five have been declared for the 2m4f Drinmore Novice Chase at 1.35pm, but it is an intriguing contest nonetheless.

Arvika Ligeonniere hasn’t been seen since easily winning a beginners chase at Punchestown in May. It remains to be seen whether he will be fit enough to beat some class horses who already have a run under their belt.

Bucker’s Bridge has won all four of his starts, beginning with a point-to-point a year ago followed by two bumpers in the spring. He reappeared in a beginners chase at the end of last month and beat Sword of Destiny who went on to frank the form at Navan. Bucker’s Bridge made a couple of mistakes that day and should improve for the run, but he may be better over a further trip.

Pride Of The Artic is stepping up in class here and, despite having completed a four-timer over fences, is passed over.

Texas Jack won his beginners chase a few weeks back at Naas but is well held on hurdling form by Dedigout who really impressed. A Grade 1 winner over hurdles, Dedigout is a fine stamp of a chaser who was always going to be better over the larger obstacle.

He made light of the bottomless ground on his debut over fences at Punchestown earlier in the month. They went a fair gallop on the ground and DEDIGOUT cruised effortlessly to the front to win easily.

Hatton’s Grace Hurdle (Grade 1)

Five have been declared for the Hatton’s Grace Hurdle over 2m4f, which goes to post at 2.35pm.

There are a few horses with some questions to answer here. Voler La Vedette was a huge disappointment at Navan when beaten at odds of 1/7. Her jockey reported that she ran flat that day and it’s to be hoped that was a one-off blip. A return to her best would see her retain the race she won last year.

Willie Mullins is two-handed with So Young and Zaidpour. The former has in and out form but this afternoon sees him at what could be his best trip. He hasn’t run since the Cheltenham Festival though and may be found wanting against sharper opponents.

Zaidpour was beaten twice by Thousand Stars at Auteuil in May and June. He’s won over a variety of distances from 2m to 3m. Again, fitness will play a part but he is capable of a big run.

That leaves Noel Meade’s Monksland, who could be the one here. Apart from running out in his point-to-point he has only been beaten once in five starts under rules, when he finished third to Simonsig at Cheltenham. He won on his reappearance over 2m at Down Royal at the beginning of the month. He’s probably open to more improvement than some of the others who are well exposed.

Paul Carberry has been anxious to get back from injury to ride him as he believes MONKSLAND is crying out for this trip. Make him a sporting selection.

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About the author:

Declan Smyth

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