TOMORROW’S triple Grade 1 meeting is often a haunt of Gordon Elliott who sent out four winners on the card last season but one of his chief trainer rivals in the Grade 1 contests this time around is his old farrier Gavin Cromwell.
This is a big local meeting for Cromwell also, who trains just outside Navan and has two big chances in the novice Grade 1 races, which is an emblem of his progression through the ranks.
My Mate Mozzie is all the rage for the Royal Bond Novice Hurdle (1.05) and Gabynako is a chief contender for the Drinmore (1.35), on a brilliant day of racing, generously backed by Bar One Racing.
“We’re excited for Sunday,” Cromwell told The Irish Field yesterday. “Both horses should like the conditions, going right handed on good to yielding ground. I think that ground will be fine for them both. We’re all looking for a bit of softer ground but it’ll be safe for them and that’s what matters.
“My Mate Mozzie was good at Navan and he came out of the race very well. He jumped to his right at a little so you’d be hoping that coming to Fairyhouse will suit him. It’s a good race obviously with Gordon’s horse (Mighty Potter) and Colm Murphy’s mare (Impervious).”
My Mate Mozzie is owned by Alymer Stud, owned in turn by local man Eamon Waters who would get a huge kick out of a Grade 1 winner at Fairyhouse. He recorded a smart time in the Grade 3 For Auction Novice Hurdle at Navan and looks the one to beat.
Gabynako finished second on his first start over fences but made no mistake with a good jumping performance to win a beginners’ chase on the inside track here earlier in the month.
“Gabynako will have a big chance in the Drinmore if he can jump like he did the last day,” Cromwell said. “We think he’s progressed nicely from his Galway run and he’ll be fine on the conditions. Jessie’s horse (Lifetime Ambition) looks the one to beat.”
The main event tomorrow is the Hatton’s Grace Hurdle (2.40) and will see Honeysuckle bid to emulate both Apple’s Jade and Solerina as a triple winner of the race. The Co Meath venue has become a second home for the seven-year-old given six of her 12 wins have come at the track.
That said the closest she ever came to defeat was in this contest last season, a muddling race that turned into a sprint in the straight. She faces a deeper field for this renewal, with Willie Mullins keen to take her on again with the Grade 1 winners Saldier and Stormy Ireland.
IT’S difficult for four-year-olds to prosper in open company, not least at this early point of the season. To emphasise the point, only four four-year-olds have won the Fighting Fifth Hurdle (3.15) since its inception in 1969.
If a four-year-old does win it, the chances are they’ll be a very good one, like 1975 winner Night Nurse and Countrywide Flame, who was placed in the Champion Hurdle after winning this on his seasonal debut in 2012.
Monmiral takes on 2020 champion hurdler Epatante, last year’s winner of this race, and the ever-dependable Sceau Royal. There is significant rain forecast for Newcastle and that should also help him.
His trainer Paul Nicholls said on Thursday: “It is a tough task for four-year-olds in their second season. They don’t get a weight allowance against older horses, but he’s a talented horse and he’s unbeaten.
“Mares get a 7lb allowance and for four-year-olds, it’s a hard year for them traditionally. Only four four-year-olds have won the race. He doesn’t know that. We’ve done everything to prepare him right.
“We’ll learn an awful lot more on Saturday especially and the more rain that falls, the better for him. We didn’t want to go chasing this year so we’re having to run in these races and the run on Saturday will tell us where we end up – whether we go Christmas Hurdle afterwards or whether we step up in trip.
“Saturday is a fact-finding mission but prep wise it’s gone great. He looks great and I’m hopeful of a very good run.”
Epatante was rated 162 coming into this race last season and the fact that she returns to defend her title with a rating of 154 tells the story of how her season developed. However Nicky Henderson is hopeful she is back at her best for this assignment.
“Aidan (Coleman) schooled her on Thursday morning and she seemed to be as good as I have ever seen her, jumping-wise, which is important. That is the litmus test with her,” said Henderson.
“It is a much better race this year than last. For a start, Sceau Royal is in much better form this year than last and I thought he was very impressive at Wincanton.
“Paul’s horse (Monmiral) could be anything and Silver Streak beat us at Kempton and didn’t get far in the race last year, so we don’t know where we are with that one, so it is a very competitive race.”
Alan King reported Sceau Royal in good form but was hoping the forecast rain misses Newcastle, given his view that the eight-year-old is a much better horse on a decent surface.
Expert insight on today’s Ladbrokes Gold Trophy on pages 68-69