Thyestes Chase week may have been and gone but there’s another weekend of intriguing jumps action just around the corner, writes Will Jennings.
There are some mouth-watering cards at both Fairyhouse and Naas, while there’s also racing at Cheltenham to whet the appetite with just over a month to go until the famous old festival gets underway.
With the Dublin Racing Festival also looming, here are your five things to look out for on another blockbuster weekend.
Blackmore hopes to be singing the blues at Naas
National Hunt winner Rachael Blackmore is no stranger to recent success and she’s putting her record on the line once again this weekend as she saddles Big Blue in Naas’ Limestone Lad Hurdle.
The decorated jockey – who has struck up a formidable partnership with trainer Henry De Bromhead – won with Minella Indo at Navan last weekend after holding off Dermot McLoughlin’s Captain Cj, now joining forces with Ciaron Maher and David Eustace in
Australian raider Big Blue has won three times over hurdles for the training partners since joining them in 2017, and is now preparing to do battle with Willie Mullins’ Stormy Ireland in one of Sunday’s main events.
Maher's and Eustace's eight-year-old possesses considerable experience having raced on the Flat in France before moving Down Under, so the stage is set for what could be a scintillating battle with Mullins in a real Sunday treat.
“We've gone back in grade, travelled over to Ireland and he's going nicely,” said Maher.
“He has schooled a couple of times over the past couple of weeks and seems to be in great order."
Carefully Selected vying to put Ronald to the Pump
And the Naas offering doesn’t end there, as Mullins’ Carefully Selected goes toe-to-toe with Matthew Smith’s Ronald Pump in the Business Club Novice Chase.
The rampaging eight-year-old comes into the duel off the back of his brilliant triumph at Punchestown two weekends ago, where he beat Martin Brassil’s City Island to the line to add another glory to his already-impressive career.
But Ronald Pump has enjoyed some memorable success himself over the past few months, winning at Fairyhouse in November before following it up with a second place at the Leopardstown Christmas Festival the next month.
And in what could be a tantalising dress rehearsal for their potential Cheltenham battle in March, fasten your seatbelts for a Sunday afternoon thriller between two of Irish racing’s most promising stars.
Elliott and De Bromhead look to make a statement
Sunday’s Business Club Novice Chase line-up comprises more than just Mullins’ and Smith’s entries, however, as Gordon Elliott and De Bromhead also attempt to build valuable momentum before Cheltenham.
Mullins’ rival Elliott has entered Elwood for the Novice Chase with Davy Russell in the saddle, while De Bromhead and Blackmore team up once again with the talented Spyglass Hill.
And given the seven-year-old is without a race victory since October, there’ll be no shortage of determination from the pairing as they seek to prevent Elwood emulating his hegemony at Thurles earlier this month.
Young talent prepare for fabulous Fairyhouse battle
There’s also action at Fairyhouse on Saturday as the pre-Cheltenham hype continues to intensify, with a series of precocious young entries appearing in the 2m Maiden Hurdle.
Four-year-olds Moghram, Insane Bolt and Galet D’Oudairies all run for Elliott in what could be a potential glimpse of the future, while Jon Snow has been entered by Mullins bidding for his maiden win since May 2018.
And three-time Leopardstown Savills Chase winning-trainer Noel Meade has an entry in Powerful Ted, with De Bromhead also flirting with the idea of running Centurion Steel in county Meath.
While most of this weekend’s household racing names take to the course at Naas on Sunday, these promising young talents will no doubt gain important experience at Fairyhouse heading into what could be some of their Cheltenham debuts.
Elliott and Russell eye up flash of Fairyhouse glory
There’s a similarly intriguing 3m1f offering at Fairyhouse on Saturday, as 13 entries prepare for the Bobbyjo Bistro Handicap Chase.
And Elliott and Russell join forces once again with nine-year-old Kayf Thou, who is eyeing up his first victory since his win in the same Fairyhouse event this time last year.
Kayf Thou is an experienced Fairyhouse campaigner, running six times at the course since his debut in county Meath in April 2018.
And with three-time Irish jump racing Champion Jockey Russell in the saddle, Elliott will be hoping the combination can deliver him another searing victory.