Russell to confirm top status with Grand Jesture
Davy Russell and AP McCoy, reigning champion jockeys on either side of the Irish Sea, both have some intriguing mounts on tomorrow's decent Fairyhouse spread.
Russell has endured a slightly frustrating couple of weeks since being demoted from his position as Gigginstown Stud's No 1 rider, partnering two winners and 12 placed horses from 19 completions.
Class is permanent, though, and he will continue to re-establish himself in his new capacity as the best freelance in the business.
Russell's book of five rides tomorrow confirms as much, with his place on Henry de Bromhead's Alan Potts-owned Grand Jesture particularly noteworthy.
Beaten in eight starts since making a smooth bow for Don Cantillon at Punchestown in April 2012, the six-year-old has been frustrating, which seems to have prompted connections to try something different by replacing the utterly dependable Andrew Lynch.
That is quite a surprise in itself, though the decision to employ Russell in his absence for the beginners' chase is less so.
It will be fascinating to see if the Youghal native can coax him home in front, because this looks a very winnable opportunity.
Not really suited by the return to hurdles last time, Grand Jesture's only previous chasing outing came when he was second to Los Amigos over course and distance in November, with the subsequent winner Ballyburke back in third.
A mistake at the last didn't help his cause that day, but all in all it was quite an encouraging display.
If Russell can get Grand Jesture to reproduce that standard of performance, he should win.
The main danger is probably Hit The Headlines, but he has been no less infuriating for Gordon Elliott and probably doesn't possess the same level of ability.
Russell also gets the nod to take the featured Underwriting Exchange Dan Moore Memorial Chase aboard Tony Martin's Lastoftheleaders.
The same partnership landed the rescheduled version of the €60,000 two-mile handicap for Arthur Moore at Punchestown last year, and ought to again go close off a 4lb higher mark now.
On its second start over flights since returning from a break at Leopardstown over Christmas, Martin's 11-year-old finished a commendable second after setting a searching gallop.
It was a display that suggested that not only does he retain much of his ability, but that all his old enthusiasm remains to boot.
That could prove crucial, as this is a competitive affair. The unexposed but unreliable Turban represents the all-conquering Willie Mullin-Ruby Walsh axis, while Conor O'Dwyer's Competitive Edge still has the scope to improve for McCoy.
However, the horse that appeals most for the iconic Antrim-born rider is Classic Event in the Ward Union Hunt Handicap Chase.
Eddie Harty's six-year-old, which is out of a full-sister to the 2005 Gold Cup hero Kicking King, ran his best race yet to be second at Tramore recently and he has the scope to justify the nap vote here.
Earlier, Liz Doyle's returning Le Vent D'Antan can deny Mullins' Daneking in the maiden hurdle. A smooth Leopardstown bumper victor on his debut last term, Mikey Fogarty's highly-regarded mount was a fair seventh in the Champion Bumper.
Meanwhile, Soft Power made a successful start to her racing career to form part of a double for trainer Eddie Lynam at Dundalk last night.
The three-year-old, which carried the colours made famous by the brilliant sprinters Sole Power and Slade Power, was sent off the 2/5 favourite for the seven-furlong Crowne Plaza Hotel Race & Stay Maiden.
Pat Smullen was content to sit third for much of the trip before cruising up to the leader in the straight and Soft Power didn't need much driving to score by six lengths from Osuileabhain.
Fairy Court (14/1), an eight-year-old gelding wearing blinkers for the first time and trained by Thomas Cummins, landed an extraordinary victory, building up a 15-length lead under Ian Queally and never looking like being caught, galloping on strongly to win by eight and a half lengths.
Maontri completed a quick-fire hat-trick with her third victory of the month.
The seven-year-old mare appears to be making rapid progress as she won her first race on January 3 off a mark of 59 when equipped with a hood for the first time.