Harrington looks to the Future with Angel
What promises to be an important couple of days for Irish-trained runners in England gets under way at Sandown this afternoon, when both Sizing Symphony and Bostons Angel set out to enhance their considerable reputations.
After making an innocuous start to the campaign by unseating Robbie Power in the Grade One chase at Down Royal last month, the Jessica Harrington-trained Bostons Angel faces what looks a less daunting task in the Future Stars Chase.
The seven-year-old completed a brilliant hat-trick of top-level victories in the RSA Chase at the Cheltenham Festival in March, and his main rival in this five-runner event could be Philip Hobbs' Quinz.
In the two-and-a-half-mile novice hurdle, Hobbs is responsible for an even more fascinating contender in Fingal Bay. On the back of a facile triumph at Cheltenham in October, Henry de Bromhead's Sizing Symphony deserves respect, but Fingal Bay's subsequent Grade Two-winning performance at Prestbury Park saw him promoted to 8/1 favourite for both of the longer novice hurdles at the Festival in March.
However, Simonsig, a 14/1 shot for those two Grade Ones, may prompt a shake-up in the ante-post market by collecting for Nicky Henderson and Barry Geraghty here.
Tomorrow's Sandown card is the one that holds most significance for De Bromhead and his jockey Andrew Lynch, as the reigning champion chaser Sizing Europe endeavours to get his campaign back on track in the Tingle Creek.
Caught late on by Quito De La Roque over three miles at Down Royal, the nine-year-old is one of nine declared for the two-mile Grade One, and he retains favouritism at 7/4.
Paul Nicholls' Kauto Stone, so impressive on his debut for the champion trainer at Down Royal, is pencilled in to be ridden by Sam Thomas, but Nicholls has warned that he will only run if the going is suitably soft.
"I've left him in as I've seen two very different forecasts," said Nicholls, who will also saddle Tataniano. "If there isn't enough rain, Kauto Stone won't run."
In tomorrow's Becher Chase, Noel Meade's Cork Grand National runner-up Another Palm shares 8/1 favouritism with last year's winner Hello Bud. Also among the 15-strong line-up is Dessie Hughes' Rare Bob and Charles Byrnes' Merchent Paddy.
Ahead of Sunday's big meeting at Fairyhouse, Paul Nolan has revealed that he plans to run Shinrock Paddy and Alpha Ridge -- both of which have yet to win over fences -- in the Bar One Racing Drinmore Novice Chase. Alpha Ridge finished second to Pandorama in the Grade One two years ago, while Shinrock Paddy was held by Lambro at Naas a fortnight ago.
"If anyone was to tell you that Alpha Ridge would still be a maiden over fences you wouldn't believe it," Nolan admitted, "but that's just the way it has turned out. Shinrock Paddy was good last time out; he was beaten by a very decent horse."
Dermot Weld has ruled Unaccompanied out of Sunday's Hatton's Grace Hurdle in favour of a tilt at the Istabraq Hurdle at Leopardstown after Christmas, with Mick Winters also revealing that Rebel Fitz will not be seen on the track again until the spring.
"He has come out of the race very well," Winters reported, "but the owners were a bit anxious he has had too much hard racing this year, so we'll take it easy with him over Christmas and look at running him again in February or March."
Winters' For Bill, the Cork handler's flagbearer in recent years, will not race for him again. She is due to be offered as a broodmare at Goffs Sales next week.