Irish Stallion Farms EBF Mares Novice Hurdle Championship Final (Grade 1) | 2m4f, 4yo+ | RTE2/RTV
Can Honeysuckle make up for missing Cheltenham?
While the Ryanair Gold Cup is the better known race on Sunday's card, the Mares' Novice Hurdle is likewise a Grade 1 event and, with Honeysuckle, Eglantine Du Seuil and Annie Mc among the 17 declarations, is arguably the most interesting contest of the day.
The unbeaten Honeysuckle is the leading name in the race, she returns to Fairyhouse – the scene of two of her three hurdles wins – after missing the Cheltenham Festival.
The Henry de Bromhead-trained five-year-old has been winning her races easily, and already has a verdict over Annie Mc having beaten her by 15 lengths when they met in a point-to-point at Dromahane a year ago.
Rachael Blackmore continues her successful partnership with Honeysuckle, who who was a 7-2 second favourite for the Mares Novice Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival, but stayed at home.
De Bromhead said: "Honeysuckle wasn't 100 per cent in the lead-up to Cheltenham so we backed off her and gave the festival a miss.
"She seems in great form again and we're looking forward to getting her back into action at a track where she's performed well."
Can Eglantine follow up festival win?
Willie Mullins has dominated recent runnings of this event, sending out four of the last six winners, including Annie Power in 2013 and Laurina a year ago.
Heading his team of seven is Eglantine Du Seuil, the 50-1 winner of the Grade 2 Mares' Novice Hurdle at Cheltenham last month, after which her rider Noel Fehily announced his imminent retirement. Now the mount of Ruby Walsh, she is stepping up three furlongs in trip.
Mullins said: "Eglantine Du Seuil showed good improvement to win at Cheltenham. The ground will be quicker than it was there, but I think the longer trip will help bring her stamina into play."
Mullins is also represented by Buildmeupbuttercup, Calie Du Mesnil, Elfile, Robin De Carlow, Salsaretta and Sancta Simona.
He said: "Elfile ran well behind Eglantine Du Seuil at Cheltenham and we think she's improved a good bit since. Robin De Carlow has had a good season and has plenty of experience. Although it was testing when she won at Limerick last time, we think the better ground will suit her well.
"The ground will also be a plus for Buildmeupbuttercup but the trip might be a bit far for her. Calie Du Mesnil had a very good run in a handicap at Leopardstown in February and has a chance of finishing in the money.
"Salsaretta's win at Limerick in December puts her in with a decent chance, but she'd prefer soft ground. Sancta Simona should like the ground but has plenty of pace and the trip just might be a bit far for her."
What they say
Gordon Elliott, trainer of Black Tears and Tintangle
Both of them ran well at Cheltenham. They're in good form and I think the step up in trip will suit them.
Philip Dempsey, trainer of Caravation
It looks a very good race. It represents a big step up but she's in good form. Hopefully the watering will have its effect as she wouldn't want it too quick.
Kate Harrington, assistant to Jessica Harrington, trainer of Emily Moon
We've been delighted with her since her win at Limerick last month and going back up in trip shouldn't bother her. We're hoping she'll be placed.