Minsk to confirm Triumph quality
MINSK -- favourite for next month's Triumph Hurdle at Cheltenham, despite having yet to race over jumps -- is a big draw for racegoers at Fairyhouse today for its eagerly-awaited bow over hurdles.
The exciting Dalakhani four-year-old completed a hat-trick of Flat wins with a bloodless soft ground rout of the Irish Cesarewitch field on its final start for John Oxx back in October and has its first outing for Dessie Hughes in the Grade Two Winning Fair Hurdle.
Hughes has made no secret of his regard for the Barry Connell-owed gelding, so there will be many a long face if things don't go to plan under Bryan Cooper here.
While Minsk is expected to score, the €37,500 contest will be no walkover, with a number of proven sorts among the 10 runners. Burrenbridge Lad, Celebrity Sevi, Arnaud and Bat Masterson set a decent standard, though the danger may be Willie Mullins' Midnight Oil, which can come on for a debut second to the last named of that quartet at Leopardstown.
In the day's feature, the At The Races Bobbyjo Chase, Hughes saddles three of the eight runners as he bids to secure the three-mile Grade Two for a third time in four runnings. Black Apalachi, successful in 2009 and runner-up 12 months later, has its first start for him since chasing home Don't Push It in the 2010 Aintree Grand National.
Magnanimity is probably the pick of the Kildare handler's trio, but he has to overcome a disappointing turn in the Hennessy, as does the Jessica Harrington-trained Bostons Angel.
While Jimmy Mangan's improving Quarryvale is respected, Prince De Beauchene appeals as the most likely winner. On its only previous run for last year's winning trainer Willie Mullins, this one ran with credit to be fifth in the Troytown in November.
That effort off 143 leaves the Paul Townend-ridden Prince De Beauchene with a bit to find with some of these, including the dual Kerry National winner Alfa Beat, but there's every reason to believe there is improvement in him.
In the ITBA Fillies' Scheme Novice Hurdle, Paul Nolan's Rising Time gets the nod for Davy Russell.
The likes of Sligo Publican, Is Herself About and Chasing Shadows are more established hurdlers, but Nolan's daughter of Old Vic caught the eye when fifth behind Aupcharlie and the subsequent winners Maller Tree and Competitive Edge at Leopardstown in January.
Ninetieth Minute should be up to landing a weak-looking beginners' chase for Tom Taaffe and Andrew Lynch, while Zardsky is a tentative nap in the hunters' chase.
A staying-on second to Boxer Georg on his racecourse debut at Clonmel, the six-year-old has the potential to progress past a few of his veteran rivals in this.