Harrington taking Ebor Steps
Jessica Harrington's smart dual-purpose performer Steps To Freedom will have his prep race for the Ebor at York next week in the Irish Stallion Farms EBF 'Red God' Handicap at Dundalk.
Last seen finishing second in the Grimes Hurdle at Tipperary, he reverts to the all-weather, a surface on which he is unbeaten in two starts.
Harrington is still thinking of the Ebor, as long as the rain stays away. He finished sixth behind Willing Foe at York 12 months ago and is rated 6lb lower this year.
The trainer said: "He's in great form and I'm delighted with him. He's run twice at Dundalk before and won both times, so he obviously likes it around there. The plan is still to go for the Ebor. He ran well in the race last year, and we're hoping for some fast ground at York."
While many of the runners are exposed, the Ger Lyons-trained Saxo Jack will be having just his fourth run.
The handler said: "It's his first run in a handicap and we're stepping him up. He won his maiden nicely at Leopardstown last time, and I think he's a progressive horse. We made the running last time because it was a small field and I was afraid it could develop into a sprint. He wants every yard of the trip."
Lyons also runs Abbey Vale, of whom he said: "His form is working out good. If he reproduces his Curragh run he has a chance and if he reproduces his Leopardstown run he's got no chance."
Another in the 50,000 euro handicap is Mick Halford's Dundalk specialist Banna Boirche, who has eight wins to his name at the track. Stablemate Hujaylea also runs.
"He's in good form and has an exceptional record around Dundalk. We are stretching him out in trip a bit, but he's run over it before and I think he gets it," said Halford of Banna Boirche.
"Hujaylea is also very well and has been a great servant. He's getting on a bit and has found it tough for a while as he got so high in the handicap. He's been dropped a bit now to 96, which will help, and we're also trying him up in trip."