Race Time: 3.20pm Meeting: Fairyhouse
Distance: 2m, 4f
Full Race Name: Keelings Irish Strawberry Hurdle (Grade Two)
Gigginstown Stud own two of the nine runners set to line up in Fairyhouse’s second race on Irish National day – the 2m,4f Grade Two Keelings Irish Strawberry Hurdle. One of these entrants is Dedigout who is the 9/4 favourite with most bookmakers.
This favouritism comes in spite of the Tony Martin charge not seeming to take too well to the Fairyhouse course. Whilst he justified favouritism back in 2012 to land a handicap hurdle, he failed to picked up either the Grade One Drinsmore Novice Chase of the same year or the track’s Powers Gold Cup in 2013. These second places were in spite of the nine year old being the short priced favourite on both occasions. He also finished dead-last in a course’s Grade One hurdle (20f) again in 2013…
Hurdles are of course a very different proposition and the 154 rated charge bounced back from finishing sixth of eight in Leopardstown’s Grade One Christmas Hurdle this season to capture two Grade Two races, at 24f and 21f respectively, on the bounce. Injury problems had kept the former Champion Novice Hurdle winner off the track for a whole year prior to his Christmas Hurdle start though his consecutive victories have demonstrated how valiantly he has been able to re-find his best form. Nobody would be surprised if even further improvement was shown at undoubtedly his best trip.
Holder of this Strawberry Hurdle title is Thousand Stars, one of a trio of runners for the Willie Mullins team. The former Vincent O’Brien victor is Dedigout’s nearest market rival and is up for grabs at the best price of 3/1 at the time of writing. The 11-year-old is in the hands of Ruby Walsh after a nine month break. Prior to this absence, the charge travelled over to France, sustaining mixed fortunes in the hands of Katie Walsh. The pair were lucky to take home the Grade Two Prix La Barka by just a nose from Le Grand Luce before failing to capture a rhythm and disappointing in an Auteuil Grade One. Whilst this absence will mean that Thousand Stars is the freshest of all the nine horses set to go to post, the highest rated horse in the race (161) often fails to live up to expectations after such pronounced absences and, whilst this too is undoubtedly his favoured distance, he must work hard for his first win back in Ireland.
Gordon Elliot’s Noble Endeavor is not too far behind Thousand Stars in the betting and is on offer at 4/1. In just his second season as a hurdler, the six-year-old has already picked up a pair of 20f wins at Punchestown as well as securing places in both a Grade Two at Navan and in this year’s Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys event at the Cheltenham Festival. Noble Endeavor finished over two lengths behind fellow Fairyhouse entrant Zaidpour in that Navan Grade Two though still will have 7lbs of weight on his side and, as he is three years the nine-year-old’s junior, has more chance of improvement occurring. Like Thousand Stars, Noble Endeavor will also feel of the benefit of being fitted with cheekpieces once again.
He’s the young, progressive horse of the race, and this race doesn’t look like it’ll take too much winning (with no offence to the others in the race). He ran very well at Cheltenham to post a career best and hasn’t done anything wrong over hurdles so far. There are big doubts over several others in the market, especially Thousand Stars, and i don’t think he should be double the price of his favourite based on what they’ve both shown so far this season with our tip in receipt of 5lb.
As a three-time Grade One winner over hurdles, Zaidpour will be carrying the top weight of all the runners in the field but will have to reverse the form on the favourite who has beaten him twice this season. The first was in the 3m Grade Two at Gowran Park, the other came at Navan in the Grade Two Boyne Hurdle (21f).
The third and final of the Mullins’ runners is fifth placed Vincent O’Brien finisher Anafilet, a Gigginstown mare at 16/1, with the best of the outsiders being the likes of 13-year-old Prince Rudi (66/1) and the clumsy if not interesting looking mare Jennies Jewel (33/1).