SHAMROCK Sat: Fairyhouse’s three-day Easter Festival begins on Saturday with a high-quality seven-race card to look forward to.
⭕ A maiden hurdle (2:10pm) over 2m4f starts the action and it’s competitive stuff, with 25 runners set to take their chance. Mint Boy is of interest, now stepping up in trip and going hurdling, but in two bumpers he has run into horses from the Gordon Elliott yard, and he might do so again here. Zaidi was a good second at this track in November, when beaten by a horse that has since gone on to be placed in Graded company over hurdles. He followed that – on his first start for the Elliott yard – with a smooth win in a bumper at Thurles. This step up in trip should suit him and he has the assistance of the excellent Michael O’Sullivan in the saddle.
⭕ A fascinating hunters’ chase (2:45pm) over 3m1f follows. Billaway, who fell in the Foxhunters at Cheltenham, reassumes his rivalry with David Christie’s Ferns Lock, a rival that beat him by 20 lengths when they met at Thurles in January. Ferns Lock has since won well at Gowran and, as an improving six-year-old who is fresh having by-passed the Cheltenham Festival, he could be very hard to beat here.
⭕ Despite carrying a several penalties for her past wins, Allegorie De Vassy is likely to be all the rage in the Listed mares’ chase (3:20pm) over 2m5½f. Willie Mullins’ six-year-old ran a huge race when bumping into a top-class mare in Impervious in the mares’ chase at Cheltenham. She faces six lesser rivals here and, if that race hasn’t left its mark, she should prove too good for them.
⭕ Next up is the Ladies National Handicap Chase (3:55pm) over the same trip of 2m5½f. It may pay to take a chance on the Tony Martin-trained Gain De Cause. He’s more lightly raced than most of his rivals after only 13 career starts and, while he has failed to place in his four runs over fences, there was encouragement last time when finishing a staying-on fourth over 2m1f at Navan. This son of Fame And Glory should appreciate the step up in trip and will like the soft ground conditions too. Phidelma Elvin takes the ride and looks to have a good chance of gaining her fourth career success.
⭕ Grade B action takes centre stage next, with the EBF Novice Handicap Hurdle Series Final (4:30pm) over 3m½f. Both Favori De Champdou and Seabank Bistro pulled-up in the Albert Bartlett at Cheltenham, but should be happier in this lesser grade. The second mentioned was quietly fancied to run a big race, but never looked happy and was pulled-up before the third last, with his rider citing that he had suffered interference early on. His form before that reads well, though, having finished second to Corbetts Cross and, on only his second run beyond 3 miles, there should be more to come from Wille Mullins’ son of Walk In The Park.
⭕ A Grade A handicap hurdle (5:05pm) over 2m½f follows. Jazzy Matty was a game winner of a highly competitive Fred Winter at Cheltenham in March. He travelled best that day and looked as though he had his rivals covered, before a mistake at the last nearly threw the race away. However, the way he battled back to lead suggested he still had something left to give, so a two-pound rise in the weights might not be enough to stop him winning again. Michael O’Sullivan retains the ride on the Gordon Elliott-trained runner.
⭕ The finale is a Listed mares’ bumper (5:40pm), run over 2m½f. Willie Mullins has three of the nine-strong field and his trio look the ones to focus on. Choosing between the three last-time-out winners is not easy though. Patrick Mullins has sided with Arctic Fly, but there might be a bit more value in the price of the Pat Taaffe-ridded Cuta Des As, who won by 17 lengths on her debut and proved she handled testing ground that day too.