Tuesday 16 July 2019

Cullen hopes to stoke old 'Fire' over fences

Arctic Fire, under Ruby Walsh, sprints clear of his rivals to claim the Hatton’s Grace Hurdle back in 2015. Photo: PA
Arctic Fire, under Ruby Walsh, sprints clear of his rivals to claim the Hatton’s Grace Hurdle back in 2015. Photo: PA

Thomas Kelly

Denis Cullen is looking forward to giving Grade One winner Arctic Fire his first start over fences at Gowran Park tomorrow.

The ten-year-old joined the Naas handler last year after a brief retirement early in 2018. He showed he still retains plenty of ability with an easy success at Cork in August, before respectable efforts to finish fourth to Bedrock and Apple's Jade in graded company.

The 2015 Hatton's Grace winner is set to tackle the larger obstacles now for the first time and Cullen has been pleased with his schooling ahead of his assignment in the two-mile PMF Beginners Chase.

"He's been schooling well at home. He has jumped plenty of fences and we've had him away to the Curragh," said Cullen. "He's been running well over hurdles - maybe he's not up to Grade One standard anymore, but we'd be hoping he should be fairly competitive dropping back to a beginners' chase."

As well as the Hatton's Grace, highlights for Arctic Fire when trained by Willie Mullins also included the 2017 County Hurdle at Cheltenham, where he was second to Faugheen in the Champion Hurdle of 2015.

Champion Hurdle aspirant Espoir D'Allen, meanwhile, could face eight rivals in the Limestone Lad Hurdle at Naas on Sunday.

Gavin Cromwell's charge was the star juvenile hurdler in Ireland in the first half of last season, winning his first four starts before disappointing at the inaugural Dublin Racing Festival at Leopardstown.

Espoir D'Allen missed the rest of the campaign, but has returned seemingly better than ever this term - winning Grade Three prizes at Naas and Limerick respectively - and he will likely be a warm order to complete his hat-trick this weekend.

Willie Mullins has four possible runners in Bleu Berry, Elimay, Saglawy and Wicklow Brave. Forge Meadow (Jessica Harrington), Jarob (Gearóid O'Loughlin), Off You Go (Charles Byrnes) and Tombstone (Gordon Elliott) complete the potential field.

The Limestone Lad Hurdle is one of two Grade Threes on Sunday's card, the other being the Naas Racecourse Business Club Novice Chase.

Irish Independent

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