It will be heavy going at Fairyhouse

Easter weekend always means Fairyhouse and the Irish National meeting. Steady rain over the past few weeks means we will be having unusually slow ground and those horses who prefer fast ground are not likely to be seen over the course of the three days in County Meath.

The meeting is no longer simply about the National though having been steadily built up to a three day fixture with plenty of fine supporting races. Cheltenham form starts coming under scrutiny with plenty of horses making their first appearance since the big meeting over the weekend.

That starts with the listed Mares Handicap on Saturday with the fifth and seventh home in the Mares Chase, Instit and Harmonya Maker amongst the line up.

Other highlights on Saturday include the final of the EBF Novice series with champion trainer Willie Mullins triple handed. Two more listed races complete the card, a competitive 2m handicap hurdle, followed by a mares bumper.

Things step up markedly in gear on Sunday with two Grade 1 contests plus two Grade 2’s. Eighteen line up for the Mares Novice over 2m4f, as large a field for a Grade 1 as there has been for a long time. Inevitably Mullins is responsible for over half the field including Fun Fun Fun who bypassed Cheltenham for this. However Henry de Bromhead’s reputation as a fine trainer of mares is exemplified by his saddling four here in opposition. Springtime Promise is a raider from Britain representing Fergal O’Brien.

We have to wait until almost 5pm for the feature, the Willowwarm Gold Cup with the youngster in the field Blood Destiny likely to be the one to beat. Gordon Elliott does not have a huge team to go into battle this weekend with, but he saddles both Saint Felicien and Zanahiyr here.

Monday is where everything builds up to though and the Irish National will go off at 5pm. Elliott certainly won’t be short-handed here with nine entered including the progressive novice Where It All Began, placed in the Kim Muir at Cheltenham. Willie Mullins will be bidding for a third win in six runnings with Nick Rockett likely to be all the rage as the progressive type of novice that has been winning this contest in recent seasons.

Old favourite Any Second Now is likely to be making his final career start and has been well backed to give veteran trainer Ted Walsh perhaps a final big race winner.

There should be plenty else to look forward to though with three Grade 2’s on the support card. Sir Gerhard could bid to bounce back from a poor run in the Stayers Hurdle where he appeared not to stay 3m and has a much better chance back 4f in trip. In contrast Zarak the Brave could step up in distance after a fourth place in the Champion Hurdle.

Easy Game could bid for a fourth consecutive win in the Fairyhouse Chase, but might find the heavy going against him. Stablemate and serial winner Saint Sam though could find this an ideal sort of race to aim for.

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