Three things to watch out for on a Fairyhouse card packed with quality
Kelly pits Pertemps stars against each other
The Bar One Racing Porterstown Handicap Chase (3.10) has seen plenty of Irish Grand National types take on this stamina-testing 3m5f contest and this looks another opportunity to collect clues for the spring.
Arguably the most exciting pair of contenders come from the same stable in Craughwell, County Galway in Presenting Percy and Mall Dini – the winners of the last two Pertemps finals at Cheltenham for Patrick Kelly.
Presenting Percy, ridden by Davy Russell, must give weight to all his rivals on his first handicap chase start and first try beyond three miles after being turned over in a Grade 2 novice chase at Punchestown a fortnight ago.
Mark Walsh's mount Mall Dini, fifth in March's Kim Muir Handicap Chase before reappearing behind his aforementioned stablemate at Galway, is also positioned towards the head of the handicap, with Kelly concerned about the ease underfoot and potentially tricky handicap mark.
Kelly said: "All my horses are getting bogged down in the ground at the moment but stamina wouldn't bother me with either of my pair – they stay well. I think the handicapper has gotten a little carried away with them though."
He explained: "Mall Dini has more experience in this sort of race, but I think he's too high in the weights. He races off 143 and Presenting Percy is off 145, which I think is quite harsh given Shattered Love, who finished 12 lengths ahead of him last time, is rated 138.
"Both should run well and I'm happy with them but the ground is the big worry."
Leading juveniles go head to head
A glance at the head of the ante-post Triumph Hurdle market tells you the opening Bar One Racing Juvenile Hurdle (12.30) could provide a clearer picture of the three-year-old hurdling division as the unbeaten Espoir D'Allen and impressive Elliott charge Mitchouka clash.
The former, trained by Gavin Cromwell and sporting the green and gold of JP McManus, is priced between 12-1 and 16-1 second favourite for March's juvenile showpiece after a pair of smart performances at Punchestown and Down Royal and now tries Graded company for the first time.
The same can be said of Mitchouka, priced between 16-1 and 20-1 for the Triumph, who was turned over on his Irish/hurdles debut at Thurles after hitting 1.01 in the home straight.
He did however make amends on his latest two starts, blowing away fields at Fairyhouse and Punchestown, and on Sunday faces his toughest opponent to date.
O'Brien runs four in competitive handicap
Joseph O'Brien, doubly represented in the Royal Bond Novice Hurdle, opts for even more strength in numbers in the Bar One Racing Handicap Hurdle (2.05) with a quartet of challengers.
The €100,000 two-mile event has Triumph Hurdle and Galway Hurdle heroes Ivanovich Gorbatov and Tigris River returning from their below-par efforts in the Greatwood Handicap Hurdle at Cheltenham a fortnight ago.
O'Brien said of the pair who head the weights: "The ground probably went against Tigris and Ivan at Cheltenham but I don't know how much better it's going to be on Sunday. They're in good form and even though Tigris has gone up in the weights a bit we're hoping he can run well."
Perhaps one of the most intriguing contenders in the 20-runner affair is last year's St Leger third Housesofparliament, who failed to fire on his handicap bow off a mark of 133.
O'Brien, who also saddles West Coast Time, said: "We're happy with Housesofparliament and I think last time at Down Royal was a bit of a shock to his system, being his first handicap start.
"West Coast Time is a novice, so this is a big ask for him, but there's no reason why he shouldn't run well too."
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