| 8°C Dublin

Bishopsfurze can star for Mullins

Tomorrow's Naas fixture, which was lost a year ago to a sudden snowfall, is the first of five meetings scheduled to be staged at the Kildare venue ahead of the Cheltenham Festival and manager Tom Ryan is pleased to see a turnout of 77 runners during the course of the afternoon.

"We're in great shape and hopefully there will be no repeat of what happened 12 months ago," Ryan said. "I'd say the ground will be soft to heavy and we're looking forward already to next Saturday week when the Limestone Lad Hurdle will be a Grade Three race for the first time.

"I understand the connections of Dunguib are considering running him back for the first time this season in that conditions event and obviously it would be a real crowd-puller for us to get him here," explained the Tipperary native.

The featured Grade Two Slaney Novice Hurdle that was lost to the weather that weekend had been landed a year earlier by subsequent Cheltenham hero Mikael D'Haguenet and his champion trainer Willie Mullins seems intent on repeating the feat on this occasion; he's declared both Bishopsfurze and Gagewell Flyer, which won their maiden hurdles in Cork and at Navan respectively, rather than the 131-rated Ballyhaunis.

Champion owner Michael O'Leary's Gigginstown House Stud likewise is doubly represented as Fists Of Fury joins Si C'etait Vrai, which opened his racecourse account here as a heavily-supported favourite in November after chasing home Hidden Universe in a classy Limerick bumper last April.

No match for Zaidpour at Fairyhouse after romping away with a Limerick maiden hurdle on his comeback, Dunguib's stablemate Pineau De Re and Henry de Bromhead's progressive Sizing Mexico add spice to what could be quite an interesting tactical affair.

Moving up half a mile in trip now after his smooth success at the Mallow track, Bishopsfurze and the year-younger Si C'etait Vrai can still emerge as the main players towards the business end and preference is for the former.

Mullins and Paul Townend, whose Blazing Tempo was an easy Grade Three mares chase winner at Punchestown yesterday, are in with a favourite's chance of landing the preceding Stallion Farms Novice Chase with Cadspeed, whose initial foray over the larger obstacles at Clonmel behind Torphichen was a fair effort as that victor was a decent third to Realt Dubh in Grade One company at Leopardstown on Thursday.

Getting a valuable 6lb from Dermot Weld's resolute stayer Prince Erik, a Sligo scorer over two and a half miles, Cadspeed, which likes to race up with the pace, should bounce back to winning ways, with Uncle Tom Cobley appearing the best of the rest.

Whatever his fate with several runners earlier in the day, O'Leary's colours can be victorious in the Go Racing In Kildare pro-am bumper as Cavan trainer Shane Donohoe saddles the Karinga Bay gelding Sweeney Tunes in the hands of Robbie McNamara.

This point-to-point second on his debut should be more effective back to the minimum trip after being overhauled late on when finishing a close fifth to He's Our Man here over an extra three furlongs and that experience might give them the call over newcomers Willie John and Duomo Di Milano.

The opening Annual Membership Maiden Hurdle with a 22-strong declaration may go to the Dessie Hughes stable courtesy of White Star Line after commendable second placings over jumps here and at Punchestown behind, respectively, Medical Card and First Lieutenant.

Irish Independent