Jessica Harrington’s Summit can go to the top
Jessica Harrington has one of the best Irish records at Cheltenham and will be hoping for something to come out of Friday’s opening day of Down Royal’s Festival of Racing to provide a springboard for next March.
She runs Summit Meeting and Gimli’s Rock in the feature, the WKD Core Hurdle.
The trainer won this race back in 1999 with the mighty Moscow Flyer who went on to score twice over fences prior to winning the Queen Mother Champion Chase at Cheltenham.
In addition to Moscow Flyer, Jessica has enjoyed success at Down Royal with Macs Joy who also won this hurdle race.
Jessica said: “Summit Meeting is running for the first time this year but he has won twice over hurdles and I’m hopeful he will run a big race. But he most certainly would not be in the class of my other two stars who did me so proud in the past.
“I also have Gimli’s Rock but he may not have the edge I expect from Summit Meeting, although you never know in this game.
“Summit Meeting can go over two miles and two and a half, but I have no immediate thoughts of running him in Cheltenham’s Champion Hurdle.”
Meanwhile, Carlow trainer John Hanlon, known as ‘Shark’ to his friends, will be looking for a good show from Luska Lad, third in the race last year behind Voler La Vadette who was subsequently placed in the David Nicholson Mares’ Hurdle at Cheltenham.
Luska Lad’s third place was a high class effort and later in the season he scored in five races, three of them in Grade 2 and one in a Grade 3.
Hanlon has just recovered from a spine operation and told me: “I feel a lot better now but I have had a tough time of it and it would be nice if Luska Lad could improve on last year’s performance.”
The race has a good record for producing future winners as it was here that Noel Meade’s Go Native was successful last year before winning the Fighting Fifth at Newcastle and the Christmas Hurdle at Kempton — and then failing to land a £1m bonus in the Champion Hurdle.
Meade, who has no runner in the race on Friday, has also won in the past with Atmatov, Iktitaf and Jared who had Tony McCoy on board.
Whether or not McCoy will be at the meeting remains to be seen as Benburb trainer Jim Lambe is keen to have him on board Vivaldi who was third at Galway.
Another local hope is Magnum Force, handled by Crossgar’s Colm McBratney, while Willie Mullins runs Blackstairmountain who won at Punchestown in April and is likely to be favourite.
The big one on Saturday of course is the JNwine.com Champion Chase headed by double Cheltenham Gold Cup winner Kauto Star — from the Paul Nicholls yard — who won this race two years ago.
Nicholls told me: “Although Kauto is entered in the Hennessy Gold Cup three weeks from now, I feel he is unlikely to run. But it will all depend on how he goes here. A good show or a winning run, and things could change.”