Russell passes up Hennessy chance
ANYONE looking for early pointers to tomorrow's Fairyhouse meeting might consider the two mounts that Davy Russell has elected to pass up in England.
At Newbury, the Youghal native's employer, Gigginstown House Stud, is represented by First Lieutenant (11st 5lb) in the Hennessy Gold Cup; at Newcastle, Trifolium flies the flag for the Michael O'Leary franchise in the Fighting Fifth Hurdle.
Exactly which of the 27 Gigginstown entries at Fairyhouse prompted Russell to stay local is impossible to say, though the likely participation of Bog Warrior is a reminder of the calls that the champion jockey has to make in his privileged position.
On the corresponding weekend last year, Russell's loyalty to the Mouse Morris-trained First Lieutenant cost him Drinmore Chase glory to Bog Warrior, before then seeing him miss out on a third Grade One when Last Instalment obliged at Leopardstown over Christmas.
First Lieutenant went some way to repaying his regular rider's faith when a fine second in the RSA Chase at the Cheltenham Festival, but when Russell deserted him at Down Royal last month, he then denied him the runner-up berth on Quito De La Roque.
Given First Lieutenant's apparent disdain for Russell's decision-making, maybe it's no surprise that he was backed into 10/1 last night to provide a first Irish win in the Newbury feature for 32 years. The in-form Bryan Cooper, who steered the dual Grade One winner in the North, keeps the ride, with the travelling delegation completed by Magnanimity (10st 3lb) and Lion Na Bearnai (10st 8lb).
Dessie Hughes' Magnanimity is another that will sport the familiar maroon and white silks under 5lb claimer Mark Enright. And despite plundering the Irish Grand National on his last start, victory for Lion Na Bearnai would somehow amount to another shock result for Tom Gibney and 3lb claimer Andrew Thornton.
In all, 19 stood their ground for the prestigious three-mile handicap. Cheltenham Festival-winning 5lb claimer Jerry McGrath, a native of Waterfall in Cork, is booked to ride Hughes' former charge Roberto Goldback for Nicky Henderson, with Barry Geraghty on Bobs Worth.
The ground at Newbury – where Tony Martin's Benefficient was just run out of it close to home by Kim Bailey's exciting Harry Topper in yesterday's big novice chase – remains soft.
At Newcastle, the heavy going ruled Rock On Ruby and Darlan out of tomorrow's two-mile Grade One, with the Andrew Lynch-ridden Trifolium one of just four left in.
The Supreme Novices' Hurdle third underwent surgery to correct his breathing since being beaten at long odds-on at Punchestown first time up. His Cheltenham conqueror Cinders And Ashes is among the opposition, as is Triumph Hurdle hero Countrywide Flame, with Bothy completing the line-up.