High hopes for Weld's Waaheb
FRESH from sending out Rite Of Passage to make a winning return from a long absence at Ascot, Dermot Weld will be hoping for more of the same with Waaheb at Fairyhouse today.
The former top-class bumper horse returns from injury as he makes his hurdling debut in the hands of Mark Walsh.
Weld's five-year-old won all of his first three bumpers before being narrowly denied by the ill-fated Lovethehigherlaw in the champion bumper at the 2011 Punchestown Festival.
The JP McManus-owned gelding has been on the sidelines since, but is prominent in ante-post lists for the Supreme Novices' Hurdle at Cheltenham. "He's had the year off and it will be nice to get him back out," said McManus' racing manager, Frank Berry. "Dermot is happy with him at home."
Waaheb faces six rivals, with Noel Meade's Cloudgazer likely to be his chief rival.
Meade looks odds-on to take the opening maiden hurdle with Cops And Robbers under Davy Russell, who is later fancied to complete a double in Michael O'Leary's colours on War Correspondent.
Another exciting jumping star on the comeback trail is Flemenstar, which is set to make his seasonal return at Navan on Sunday fortnight.
According to trainer Peter Casey, his stable star -- a 12/1 shot for the Cheltenham Gold Cup -- will kick off his campaign in the Fortria Chase. "He looks super. He has strengthened up a lot," Casey said.
Paul Nolan's Noble Prince will cross the Irish Sea to make his seasonal re-appearance in Saturday's Old Roan Chase at Aintree. "He got injured in Cheltenham (in the Ryanair), but we've had no setbacks since," Nolan revealed.
"We'll be looking to run him on better ground this season and we are definitely looking at going up in trip. He'll be in races like the King George."
Champion trainer Paul Nicholls could saddle Poquelin and the progressive Pacha Du Polder in the Aintree event. Wishfull Thinking, Nacarat and Gauvain are also among the entries.
Meanwhile, Aidan O'Brien is responsible for six of the 15 juveniles confirmed for the Racing Post Trophy at Doncaster on Saturday.
His leading hope this year appears to be Beresford Stakes winner Battle Of Marengo, although hugely impressive Navan maiden scorer Kingsbarns has been supplemented by the team.
O'Brien is also responsible for Festive Cheer, Eye Of The Storm, Kingston Jamaica and Magician.
The other major Irish hope is the Jim Bolger-trained Trading Leather, an impressive winner of the Autumn Stakes on Future Champions Day at Newmarket, while Andrew Oliver's First Cornerstone is also due to travel.
Richard Hannon has added Van Der Neer to the field, and could also saddle smart youngster Havana Gold.