An Tobar and Rachael Blackmore winning at Fairyhouse last month © Photo Healy Racing
The best day’s racing of the jumps season so far takes place at Fairyhouse on Sunday with three Grade One contests up for grabs.
Eight runners are set to go to post for the first of the Grade One races, The Royal Bond Novices Hurdle at 1.25pm. This race has a long history of producing high quality winners including Marine Nationale who won the race twelve months ago before going on to frank the form with success in the Supreme Novices Hurdle at Cheltenham.
This year’s contenders include the very exciting An Tobar. This Henry de Bromhead trained six-year-old was a wide margin winner of his only point-to-point start back in January 2022 and made the perfect beginning to his career on the racecourse when landing a Maiden Hurdle over this course and distance last month.
The likes of Encanto Bruno, Farren Glory and Who’s Up Darling are also potentially smart performers, but on balance it is worth siding with An Tobar to retain his unbeaten record.
Gordon Elliott has won six of the last ten renewals of the Grade One Drinmore Novices Chase and his sole representative this time, Found A Fifty, must be garnered the utmost respect. Found A Fifty is the only previous point-to-point winner in the lineup and scored decisively on his chasing debut at Down Royal last month.
That said, it is hard not to be impressed with the credentials of Gavin Cromwell’s Letsbeclearaboutit. He is two from two over fences and already looks an assured jumper of a fence. With an abundance of stamina to draw on, if necessary, he looks the most likely winner.
All eyes will be on Impaire Et Passe in the third of the afternoon’s Grade One contests, The Hatton’s Grace Hurdle. Impaire Et Passe was scintillating at both Cheltenham and Punchestown last season and could yet emerge as a serious rival to Constitution Hill for the coveted Champion Hurdle crown.
He will need to be pretty straight for his seasonal debut if he is to maintain his unbeaten record as last year’s winner Teahupoo won’t go down without a fight in defence of his title.
It will be a minor shock if the finish doesn’t concern Impaire Et Passe and Teahupoo and the market will be the ultimate guide as to which one should prevail.
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Elsewhere on Sunday’s Fairyhouse card there is an intriguing renewal of the Grade Three Juvenile Hurdle which was won last season by Lossiemouth who went on to become the Champion Juvenile Hurdler of the year.
Willie Mullins is always very strong in the Juvenile department and his representative, Batman Girac, has experience over hurdles having won in his native France back in April.
Other French recruits in the lineup include Nara, Hamsiyann, Ose Partir and Kala Conti and it is the last named horse that is of most interest here.
Kala Conti won a hurdle race in France in May and hit the mark again at Navan last month on her debut start for Gordon Elliott. With her fitness assured and her stable in top form she will be difficult to beat.
Sir Bob and Call The Tune were only separated by a short head at the end of the three miles and four furlongs Cork National last month and the pair renew their rivalry in the equally stamina testing Porterstown Handicap Chase at Fairyhouse.
In theory there shouldn’t be much between the pair again on identical handicap terms, but there is more than a suspicion that the younger horse, Call The Tune, will get the better of the argument this time around.