Fairyhouse Sunday Preview: Outlander is no outsider
John Ingles previews Sunday's Grade 1 action at Fairyhouse featuring the Drinmore Novices' Chase
It will be a major shock if Willie Mullins doesn’t come away with at least one Grade 1 prize at Fairyhouse on Sunday. First of all, he pitches the exciting pair Long Dog and Bachasson against each other in the Royal Bond Novices’ Hurdle, and while Ruby Walsh has opted to ride the former, there’s not a great deal between them on Timeform ratings as each of them bids for a fifth consecutive win over hurdles. Half an hour later, Mullins is double-handed again with Arctic Fire and Clondaw Court in the Hatton’s Grace Hurdle. This too is an interesting clash, but while Clondaw Court is unbeaten, this will be much his biggest test yet on his return from a year’s absence against last season’s Champion Hurdle runner-up who made a successful return to action in the Lismullen Hurdle at Navan earlier this month.
There’s likely to be a short-priced favourite, too, for the card’s other Grade 1, the Drinmore Novices’ Chase over two and a half miles, but this one is trained by Gordon Elliott who fields two others in an eight-strong line-up in addition to No More Heroes. A top bumper horse, No More Heroes looked unlucky not to win the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle at Cheltenham in March when he rallied for third place after being short of room at the final flight. However, he had always looked a chaser in the making, and he didn’t disappoint when making a successful debut in that sphere at Punchestown a month ago, not the least impressive aspect of that performance being his jumping. That was just an ordinary beginners’ chase, so the form can’t be rated that highly, but judged on his hurdling ability it would be no surprise if No More Heroes were to prove capable of a good deal better over fences.
However, there are other potentially smart chasers in the field at more interesting prices. One is Monksland who was an even better hurdler than No More Heroes in his prime and finished second in the Hatton’s Grace on this card three years ago. Noel Meade also had him entered in the same contest on Sunday after he had gone close to getting the better of Arctic Fire at Navan where a bad mistake at the last cost him the race. Since then, Monksland has made a winning debut over fences at Gowran last Saturday and looks one of the biggest dangers to the favourite.
Another is Outlander who represents the same owners as No More Heroes, Gigginstown Stud, and whose presence gives Willie Mullins a very real shot at a clean sweep in all three of the Grade 1 contests. Like the other leading contenders, he too comes here on the back of a successful first run over fences, in his case a length and a half beating of No More Heroes’ stablemate Free Expression at Punchestown, a rival who re-opposes on Sunday. Outlander was impressive at Punchestown, but the well-backed Free Expression met with interference rounding the home turn and he’s another with the potential to improve. A well-beaten fifth in the same race, incidentally, was Futuramic who had previously chased home No More Heroes over the same course and distance.
A more compelling piece of form which makes Outlander the one to back against No More Heroes was their clash over hurdles in a Grade 2 novice at Leopardstown in January when Outlander had No More Heroes back in fifth. That was over Sunday’s trip of two and a half miles, which looks ideal for Outlander whereas three miles might prove No More Heroes’ optimum distance. Outlander may have disappointed somewhat at Cheltenham last season, but there’s no arguing with the form of that Leopardstown win as the next three home – Martello Tower, Killultagh Vic, and Windsor Park – all went on to win races at the Festival!
Of the remainder, Shantou Flyer has the most chasing experience, including a win at Cheltenham in October to his name, though doesn’t have the potential of those already mentioned. He did, though, have two of Sunday’s rivals behind him when winning the Florida Pearl Novices’ Chase at Punchestown two weeks ago when Captain Von Trappe (the Gordon Elliott third string here and another for Gigginstown) and Rightdownthemiddle were second and fourth respectively. This looks a stiff task for Gigginstown’s fourth entry Sub Lieutenant, but he too shaped well on his chasing debut when third at Naas.
Summing up, Outlander has already got the better of No More Heroes in a previous meeting over hurdles, and he looks value to repeat the trick over fences.
Back Outlander in the Drinmore Novices' Chase.
|Free Race Pass of the Day|
Sunday 29th November
|5. OUTLANDER (IRE)||
|W. P. Mullins, Ireland|
|3. MONKSLAND (IRE)||
|Noel Meade, Ireland|
|7. SHANTOU FLYER (IRE)||
|Mr B. O'Neill|
|Colin Bowe, Ireland|