Steps To Freedom can make followers jump for joy at Fairyhouse
The likely presence of Steps To Freedom -- last season's stylish Aintree Champion Bumper winner -- at Fairyhouse today is further evidence that the jumps season is beginning to get serious.
With the going officially good, good to firm in places at declaration time, Jessica Harrington's five-year-old was a potential non-runner but rainfall at the Co Meath track yesterday should ensure that he will tackle the opening maiden hurdle. Provided he does, Steps To Freedom ought to collect for favourite-backers at a meeting that also promotes this weekend's Solheim Cup at nearby Killeen Castle.
Successful on the Flat at Leopardstown in June before finishing second twice and then fourth in a Listed race at Galway last month, the Statue Of Liberty gelding is unlikely to meet his match in this 16-runner contest if his jumping holds up. In the event that Robbie Power's mount is withdrawn, local handler Robbie Hennessy may have the solution in Rawnaq, after that one finished fifth on its hurdling debut in May.
The remainder of the seven-race programme, which has a €5 entrance fee, holds plenty more interest. In the conditions race, Gordon Elliott's Listowel scorer Plan A is fancied to follow up for Davy Condon, while the novice hurdle looks competitive.
Of the six declared for the Irish Stallion Owners EBF-sponsored two-and-a-half-miler, four bring winning form to the table. The Noel Meade-trained Jakros reappears after a fine triumph at Cork in May, with Minella Humour a more recent victor.
John Nallen's representative did little wrong when coming clear at Roscommon last month, so he must enter calculations. Coming from Willie Mullins' yard, Pickapocketortwo cannot be ignored either, but Sizing Symphony is preferred.
A runner-up at Gowran Park in March, Henry de Bromhead's son of Sadler's Wells returned to the fray with an effortless front-running rout at Killarney in July. If he can build on that, he could take a bit of catching under Andrew Lynch.
In the first division of the 20-furlong handicap hurdle, Tom Cooper may have found Coole Avenue an opportunity to regain his confidence after two spills over fences. Rivals Sister Steve and Blue Vic were on the mark last time, but Coole Avenue looked a fair sort when scoring over hurdles at Listowel in June. With Keith Donoghue taking a useful five pounds of the top-weight, he is the one to beat now.