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'I think she's a bloody certainty' - Hanlon confident Skyace can land Grade 1

Skyace: the £600 purchase has continually outrun her odds and expectations
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3.20 Fairyhouse
Irish Stallion Farms EBF Mares Novice Hurdle Championship Final (Grade 1) | 2m4f | 4yo+ | RTV

It is fair to say there is no standout here. Atlantic Fairy is the obvious place to start given connections opted to sidestep Cheltenham in a bid to bring a fresher mare to Fairyhouse.

However, all of her best form is on heavy going, and given she is by Jeremy, does she want spring ground? Possibly not. Henry de Bromhead won the last running of this with a certain Honeysuckle and, along with Atlantic Fairy, is represented by Brave Way here.

She may not be at the forefront of the market but Brave Way would have solid each-way claims if back to her best.

Willie Mullins has won this race four times beginning with Annie Power's triumph in 2013 and there does not appear to be much between his four here. Paul Townend has elected to ride Gauloise, who has questions to answer after Cheltenham.

Stablemates Glens Of Antrim and Hook Up were well held by Shark Hanlon’s Skyace in the Mares’ Novice Hurdle at Cheltenham and there does not appear to be any obvious reason why they should turn that form around.

Gauloise: the Willie Mullins-trained mare was disappointing at Cheltenham last time

It is often bandied about that if a certain horse was trained by a more prominent trainer they wouldn’t be allowed go off at such big odds. Such an argument is often made redundant by the fact that the reality is the horse is the right price for exactly that reason. 

But in the case of Skyace, Hanlon may well have cause for head-scratching as his charge is continuously overlooked in the market. 

She ran a cracker to finish fourth at Cheltenham, the best of what any mare in this line-up managed, and the case could be made that she will be even better stepping up to 2m4f on better ground here.

The Jonathan Sweeney-trained Roseys Hollow was six lengths behind Skyace at Cheltenham after starting at a substantially lower price and is once again more prominent in the market but similar to Atlantic Fairy, there is a slight question mark about the ground. 

In short, this is a tricky race to call. Hanlon may be extremely bullish about opening his account at the highest level with Skyace and, while she would look to have big claims, the race is far too open to make any bold predictions.

'I couldn’t be more confident in this mare'

Not only can Shark Hanlon train, but he can also see into the future. “I’ll give you a story boy,” is how the trainer of Skyace answered his phone on Saturday. “‘Shark Hanlon wins his first Grade 1 with Skyace'. That’s what the next chapter will be with this mare. I’m that confident she will win.”

Hanlon has every reason to be confident. Skyace performed better than any of her rivals at Cheltenham, is fresher than most and will love the ground and trip. The trainer knows this better than anyone and is willing to put his money where his mouth is.

Shark Hanlon: "I think she will give me my first Grade 1 win and if she does it would be absolutely mighty"

Hanlon said: “I think she’s a bloody certainty. I’ve backed her every time she has run for us and I’m going to be backing her again on Sunday. I can’t see how she gets beaten. If Gordon [Elliott] or Willie [Mullins] had this mare she wouldn’t be underestimated every time she runs.

"I can’t understand the market at all. She beat every one of Willie’s at Cheltenham. Henry’s [de Bromhead] mare [Atlantic Fairy] won’t handle the ground and she finished well ahead of the second favourite Roseys Hollow at Cheltenham. What am I missing?”

He added: “I gave Skyace a little blow there this [Saturday] morning and she’s never been in better form. It frightened the life out of me. I rang the lads who own her in Dubai and I told them she’s a certainty and to have what they like on her.

"Now, that wouldn’t usually be my way, especially in a Grade 1, but I couldn’t be more confident in this mare. She’s also a fresher mare than most of these because she had a mid-season break. I think she will give me my first Grade 1 win and if she does it would be absolutely mighty.”

What they say

Henry de Bromhead, trainer of Atlantic Fairy and Brave Way
Atlantic Fairy seems in great form and we said we’d keep her for this after Navan. It should be lovely jumping ground. She’s a lovely mover so should be fine on the nicer ground. Brave Way was a little bit lost the last day and perhaps she struggled on the ground. She’s in good form at home and if she could return to the form she showed at Down Royal I’d be hoping she could hit the frame. 

Henry de Bromhead: has Brave Way and the favourite Atlantic Fairy for the Grade 1 Mares Novice Hurdle

Joseph O'Brien, trainer of Castra Vetera and Global Equity
Castra Vetera was a bit disappointing last time, but this race has been the plan since then and hopefully she can pick up a share of the prize-money. The form of Global Equity's run at Leopardstown has worked out well. She was a bit disappointing since, but the ground and the trip will suit so she goes there with an outside chance.

Jonathan Sweeney, trainer of Roseys Hollow
She is in good order after Cheltenham. This will represent different conditions and the ground will be the question mark because all of her best form is on heavy ground. We’re hopeful. 

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I’ve backed her every time she has run for us and I’m going to be backing her again on Sunday
E.W. Terms