Jezki's Fairyhouse mission
Jessica Harrington is set to unleash Champion Hurdle hope Jezki on Sunday's Hatton's Grace Hurdle at Fairyhouse.
The progressive five-year-old struck three times at Grade One level as a novice last season and also finished an excellent third behind Champagne Fever in the Supreme Novices' Hurdle at Cheltenham.
The JP McManus-owned gelding made a pleasing return to action when scoring at Down Royal and sidestepped a clash with Hurricane Fly at Punchestown to wait for this weekend's two-and-a-half-mile feature.
"The plan is to run him in the Hatton's Grace Hurdle, all being well," Harrington revealed. "He seems to be in great form and I have been very happy with him."
Jezki claimed the Royal Bond Novice Hurdle on the same card 12 months ago, a race in which Harrington will be double-handed this time.
The Moone, Co Kildare handler is set to saddle talented mare Gambling Girl and Mr Fiftyone, last seen chasing home Diakali at Naas.
"They will both run in The Royal Bond," she said. "Gambling Girl was very impressive at Down Royal. I wasn't that surprised with the way that she won, as she had won her maiden very well at Gowran.
"Mr Fiftyone won his bumper and maiden hurdle very well and the form of those races has been franked since."
Also bound for the Royal Bond is the Eddie Harty-trained Minella Foru, providing there is some ease in the ground.
Harty explained: "At this moment in time, the Royal Bond is the plan. If the ground quickens up a good bit we might have to have to another look."
Champion Hurdle credentials will be at stake over in Newcastle on Saturday when another McManus candidate, My Tent Or Yours, contests the Fighting Fifth Hurdle. Tony McCoy will travel up north to ride Nicky Henderson's charge which is set to face at least one formidable opponent in the Jeremy Scott-trained Melodic Rendezvous.
Last season's Tolworth Hurdle winner missed the big festivals in the spring, but appeared better than ever when making a winning return in the Elite Hurdle at Wincanton.
Another interesting contender among 12 possible runners is John Ferguson's Cotton Mill, which was fourth behind Melodic Rendezvous in the Elite.
Meanwhile, owners Gigginstown House Stud have been cleared of any wrongdoing by the Irish Turf Club in relation to the late withdrawal of Road To Riches at Cork on November 3.
Gigginstown's number one jockey Davy Russell was switched to Rogue Angel after Road To Riches was taken out of a Grade Three novice chase.
Rogue Angel, trained by Mouse Morris, finished third behind Sizing Rio.
The Cork stewards referred the issue to the Irish Turf Club, who adjudged there were no breaches of the rules of racing.
The matter is unrelated to the withdrawal of Gigginstown's Devils Bride at Fairyhouse last week.
Trainer Willie Mullins was fined €200 and the horse prevented from running for two days after he was taken out of the Premier Jump Weekend Hurdle due to a change in the going. The local stewards felt the ground had not altered enough to justify the decision.
Devils Bride was prohibited from running in Thursday's INH Stallion Owners EBF Novice Hurdle at Thurles, for which he would have been a leading fancy, but was pulled up three days later in the 'Monksfield' Novice Hurdle at Navan.
Gigginstown have appealed the stewards' decision to penalise Mullins.