They say there is no gain without pain and Carlow trainer ‘Shark’ Hanlon will be hoping he can ignore the fact that he’s recovering from a major back operation and enjoy success with Luska Lad in tomorrow’s WKD Core Hurdle, which tops the bill on the opening day of the two-day Down Royal Festival.
Luska Lad finished third in this race last year and on current form should prove hard to beat as he will be fit from his seasonal debut win over hurdles at Punchestown last month.
Luska Lad has won 10 times from 19 starts, and Hanlon said: “I have had three discs removed from my back and I’m still in hospital so I won’t be at the meeting but I have booked Andrew McNamara to ride as he knows the horse and I am hopeful he will do the business.
“I have a campaign laid out for Luska Lad including the Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham in March but before that he will run in the Hattons Grace Hurdle (at Fairyhouse) at the end of this month and then the Christmas Hurdle at Kempton on Boxing Day. I am very hopeful he will come through all these races as he has a tremendous record and can be hard to beat.”
In opposition is Blackstairmountain from Willie Mullins’ stable in what is the horse’s first run since winning at the Punchestown Festival while Jessica Harrington has high hopes for Summit Meeting who could go for top honours this season.
Jessica has won this race twice previously with Macs Joy and earlier with the great Moscow Flyer who went on to win the Arkle and Queen Mother Champion Chase twice at Cheltenham, along with the Tingle Creek Chase and Punchestown Champion Chase during his illustrious career.
Luska Lad would appear to have the beating of those declared which include Magnum Force, handled by Crossgar’s Colin McBratney.
Ballymena’s Ian Ferguson may be on the mark at a meeting at which he rarely fails to score and his one to follow is Posh Bird in the Porter & Co Beginners’ Chase.
The Archie Watson Memorial bumper race is always a major attraction and Ferguson runs Double Ross but Stewart Crawford’s Larne-based Mollyash and Mervyn Torrens’ Strabane hope Moymore Lad catch the eye.
The feature at the Down Royal Festival on Saturday is the JNwine.com Chase, with Kauto Star the main attraction.
Meanwhile, yesterday afternoon's meeting at Fairyhouse was abandoned after just four races due to unsafe ground.
With conditions worsening throughout the day due to persistent rain, stewards made the decision to look at conditions after the two-mile maiden hurdle.
Following the inspection of the track, the meeting's three subsequent races were cancelled.
Clerk of the course Joe Collins said: “The stewards decided to look at the course after the fourth race as a few horses had stumbled in the previous races and some jockeys were concerned about false patches of ground.
“After looking at the track, they decided to abandon the rest of the meeting.”