Voler La Vedette heads field for Hatton's Grace
Voler La Vedette is one of eight intriguing entries confirmed for the Hatton's Grace Hurdle at Fairyhouse on Sunday, when Colm Murphy's talented mare will need to leave behind four consecutive runner-up finishes if she is to repeat the heroics that saw her plunder a famous Grade One triumph 12 months ago.
In 2011, the eight-year-old bagged a 12th career win in the Bar One Racing-sponsored race, which is the showpiece of Sunday's quality-laden card that includes the Drinmore Novice Chase and Royal Bond Novice Hurdle. She followed that with another win at Leopardstown, before getting turned over by Zaidpour at odds-on in the Galmoy Hurdle in January.
Voler La Vedette then ran right up to form when rattling Big Buck's and Quevega at Cheltenham and Punchestown, respectively. However, at odds of 1/7 on her Navan seasonal reappearance, she was readily foiled by outsider Whatuthink.
Come Sunday, the Willie Mullins-trained Zaidpour might again oppose. The champion trainer has also left in So Young and Thousand Stars, while Noel Meade's sole entrant is the improving Monksland.
Si C'Etait Vrai, Staying Article and Trifolium are three other smart performers entered, with the last-named Charles Byrnes-trained gelding also in the Fighting Fifth Hurdle at Newcastle on Saturday. According to bookmaker Paddy Power, the Hatton's Grace is the most open of the three Fairyhouse Grade Ones – Voler La Vedette topping their book at 2/1, ahead of Thousand Stars at 9/4 and Monksland at 7/2.
Mullins' dual champion bumper winner Champagne Fever – an easy winner on his hurdling bow at Cork – is 10/11 for the Royal Bond, while Boylesports offer evens. Both firms go 3/1 about Minsk continuing Dessie Hughes' fine run in the Grade One two-miler.
In the Drinmore, Dedigout is the 7/4 ante-post favourite to give Tony Martin and Gigginstown Stud back-to-back wins following Bog Warrior's success in 2011, with Arvika Ligeonniere 3/1 to end Mullins' 13-year drought in the race. Mikael D'Haguenet – a faller when looking a likely winner at the last in 2010 and beaten after a similar blunder at Punchestown recently – is as big as 9/2.
Buckers Bridge, whose win at Punchestown a month ago was franked by the runner-up Sword Of Destiny on Sunday, trades at the same price.
Having been blighted by the weather in recent years, Fairyhouse general manager Peter Roe reports that the ground is heavy, but he's optimistic that the two-day spread will get under way as scheduled on Saturday.
John 'Shark' Hanlon, meanwhile, has revealed that his stable star Hidden Cyclone came through Saturday's Gowran Park victory unscathed. "He's come out of the race super," Hanlon reported. "He's as fresh as a daisy and all going well he will go for Lexus (at Leopardstown on December 28)."