Australian hurdler Big Blue all set for Stormy Ireland clash in Limestone Lad

The Ciaron Maher and David Eustace-trained eight-year-old could also face Sutton Place and Mengli Khan in the €34,000 event

Thursday, January 23, 2020

Big Blue - seen here winning the Prix Michel Houyvet at Deauville in 2015 - is in line for an appearance at Naas

Australian raiders at Royal Ascot are nothing new, but one is set for a rare appearance in County Kildare as Big Blue has been primed for Sunday's Grade 3 Limestone Lad Hurdle at Naas, where he could face smart mare Stormy Ireland, writes James Burn.

The son of Galileo was bred in Britain and raced on the Flat in France for Andre Fabre before moving to Australia, running for John O'Shea, Darren Beadman and James Cummings until joining Ciaron Maher and his training partner David Eustace in 2017.

He has won three times over hurdles for them and last year a plan was hatched to compete at the Cheltenham Festival in March.

That has been slightly complicated as the eight-year-old, who runs in the colours of Halo Racing Services Pty Ltd and partners, has not been given a handicap mark by the BHA.

Therefore, Cheltenham's International Hurdle was identified as a starting point only for Big Blue to scope unsatisfactorily.

He did run in the Christmas Hurdle at Kempton but was pulled up two hurdles from home by Johnny Burke.

"He went in one of the slickest races that has been held this year and he got underneath a jump, three from home, and dragged his feet through it," said Maher, responsible for Ruby Walsh's Australian Grand National winner Bashboy in 2015.

"That took the wind out of his sails. We've gone back in grade, travelled over to Ireland and he's going nicely. He has schooled a couple of times over the past couple of weeks and seems to be in great order."

As well as the Willie Mullins-trained Stormy Ireland, he could face the long-absent Sutton Place and last year's JLT third Mengli Khan in the €34,000 event. Last year the race was won by subsequent Champion Hurdle hero Espoir D'Allen.

He has schooled a couple of times over the past couple of weeks and seems to be in great order.

- Ciaron Maher

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