Don scalp gives Fahy heart for Morning Assembley's Aintree tilt
Morning Assembley is firmly on course for the Crabbie's Grand National after returning home safe and sound following an excellent run at the Cheltenham Festival.
Pat Fahy's stable star claimed the scalp of Cheltenham Gold Cup hero Don Cossack as a novice a couple of seasons ago, but has since spent the best part of two years on the sidelines.
Following a couple of readying efforts, the nine-year-old crossed the Irish Sea to contest the Ultima Handicap Chase at Prestbury Park last Tuesday and ran a race full of promise to finish fourth.
Fahy said: "He came back from Cheltenham well. He didn't have any cuts or bruises and we rode him out for the first time since this morning and he seems in great form.
"The Aintree National is definitely the plan and with Don Cossack winning the Gold Cup, you would have to say on his best form he must go there with a great chance.
"I was delighted with how he jumped in Cheltenham and it just proved the run before in Gowran was down to the ground. He just couldn't jump out of it that day.
"He was much better last week, apart from the third-last where he just took off too far off it.
"It's credit to the horse and to Davy (Russell) that he stood up, as he barely made it. But for that he would definitely have been an easy third.
"We've plenty time enough before Aintree. He's all the work done and he's in tip-top shape, so it's just a case of freshening him up and giving him a couple of blows. I'm happy with where we are with the horse."
Fahy is keeping his fingers crossed Russell will be on board again at Aintree on April 9.
"Hopefully Davy will ride him," the trainer added.
"Davy is one of the cutest jockeys around and knows the horse well, but he might have other commitments, so we'll just have to wait and see."
Another Cheltenham hero, Empire Of Dirt, is unlikely to run in the Irish Grand National on Easter Monday.
The Colm Murphy-trained nine-year-old fell at the first fence in the Fairyhouse feature last year and also came to grief on his return to action in the Troytown Chase at Navan in November.
He has endured mixed fortunes since, but showed his true talent when scoring at Leopardstown in January and backed that up with an impressive display in last week's Brown Advisory & Merriebelle Stable Plate at Prestbury Park.
Murphy said: "He seems fine. Everything is good and we're delighted with him.
"It's probably unlikely he'll run at Fairyhouse, so we might look for something in Aintree with him.
"He won over two and a half miles the other day, but I think we could step up or step back in trip if we wanted to.
"We'll see what the options are and go from there."