Galileo's to lay Festival marker
HAVING watched Hisaabaat book his place at the Cheltenham Festival last Sunday, Dermot Weld will be hoping that Galileo's Choice can do likewise at Fairyhouse today.
A Group Three winner on the Flat, Galileo's Choice signed off for the winter with an excellent second to Sous Les Cieux in the Royal Bond Novice Hurdle at the Meath venue in early December. He returns for a more mundane five-runner heat now, with Willie Mullins again supplying his chief rival in the shape of Navan scorer Terminal.
Although Terminal may be more at ease on the prevailing heavy ground, it will be a surprise if Galileo's Choice doesn't still have his measure under Robbie McNamara.
The exciting six-year-old coped admirably in testing conditions last time, so he can sign off with a win ahead of a tilt at the Supreme Novices' Hurdle on the opening day of the Prestbury Park gathering.
Mullins, whose Dr Machini is fancied to follow up last month's facile course success in what looks a fair bumper, saddles the Gowran Park runner-up Primroseandblue in the opening maiden hurdle.
Like Dr Machini, Primroseandblue is partnered by the champion trainer's son Patrick, but is passed over in favour of Francis Flood's useful mare Valleymount. A Cork bumper victor that kept good company in winners' events, Valleymount was an excellent third here behind Mickelson and Caolaneoin on her jumping bow.
The runner-up has since won and been third to Trifolium in a graded race, so the form looks solid, with the front three pulling well clear of the remainder. If Mark Walsh's mount can improve on that now, she can justify the nap selection.
The two-and-a-half-mile Tote Sports Lounge Novice Handicap Hurdle is a really competitive affair.
Of the 10 runners, Station Lane, Dog Barrel Hill, Lookoutnow and Clashnabrook all bring winning form to the table. Clashnabrook, representing Eoghan O'Grady and Philip Enright, gets the nod to follow up what was a devastating performance here 11 days ago.