Prince to lower Realt Dubh's star
All of last month's record-breaking 13 Irish-trained Cheltenham Festival winners will parade on the first day of the Fairyhouse Easter Festival tomorrow, but Jewson Chase hero Noble Prince is the only one taking up a racing engagement on the card.
Paul Nolan's seven-year-old tackles the Grade One Powers Gold Cup on a packed seven-race programme that gets under way at 1.50, and he will once again face his arch nemesis Realt Dubh in the prestigious two-and-a-half-mile novices' event.
The two horses, owned by separate members of the Sharkey family from Dublin, will be squaring up for a third time this season, with Realt Dubh looking to maintain his 100pc record over Noble Prince following two Grade One triumphs at Leopardstown.
However, it was the Montjeu gelding that scored at Cheltenham, as Realt Dubh could manage only third behind Captain Chris and Medermit in the Irish Independent Arkle Trophy.
In the Jewson, the combination of 20 furlongs, good ground and Tony McCoy saw Noble Prince run out a game winner over Wishfull Thinking.
Given that Wishfull Thinking went on to slam Medermit by 10 lengths at Aintree, Noble Prince is fancied to finally get one over on Realt Dubh now that conditions are in his favour. Realt Dubh is undoubtedly the main danger as Noel Meade goes in search of his third Powers success, but neither is the €58,500 contest a two-horse race.
Mikael D'Haguenet seeks an elusive first chasing triumph, while Roi Du Mee and Mr Cracker aren't without a chance for the all-powerful Gigginstown Stud. Henry de Bromhead's Loosen My Load is another to consider, but it's hard to see how that one will find the nine lengths that he was beaten when third to Noble Prince last time.
Nolan is also well represented with Golden Sunbird in the valuable mares' novice hurdle. Our Girl Salley, beaten just twice in her last eight starts, bids to extend her unbeaten run to six in this, a cracking Grade Three that features a final field of 12.
Definite Class and Shop DJ should be thereabouts too despite recent defeats, but preference is for Knockfierna.
Charles Byrnes' daughter of Flemensfirth is on a four-timer here and, having beaten Golden Sunbird into second at Cork in December, she will now meet that one here on 12lb better terms.
Knockfierna's rider Davy Russell has a fine book of rides at the Meath venue, including Byrnes' Campbonnais in the Ryan's Cleaning Specialist Beginners' Chase.
Like Campbonnais, Ballymak will sport the Gigginstown colours here.
Davy Condon takes the reins on that one for Gordon Elliott, and the partnership ought to go close if enjoying better luck than when going their separate ways at the second fence at Down Royal in March.
Russell, though, doesn't usually choose the wrong one in these situations, so Campbonnais can help him eat into Paul Townend's lead of seven in the jockeys' championship.
A fair hurdler on good ground last summer, the French-bred is improving gradually over fences. On his second and most recent try, Campbonnais kept on well to be fourth over two and a half miles, and the extra two furlongs should aid his cause now.
Russell also had to choose between two in the three-mile novices' handicap hurdle.
He came down in favour of Bog Warrior over Start Me Up on this occasion, a decision that is likewise expected to prove fruitful for the Youghal native.
In his three outings for Tony Martin this term, Bog Warrior has won a bumper and a maiden hurdle, his only reversal coming when he tipped up at Navan in between.
Off a debut handicap mark of 122, he might not be badly treated.
Just before that contest, McCoy could be the man to side with on Princeton Plains in a similarly wide-open novices' handicap over two miles.
Eddie Harty's representative is another having his first start in a handicap, but he has run well to be placed twice in maiden hurdles since the turn of the year.