Harry Fry sends Love Envoy, the stable’s standard bearer and heroine of the Cheltenham Festival, into the lion’s den in a bid to win Year One at Fairyhouse on Sunday.
The six-year-old puts her unbeaten record on the line in the Irish Stallion Farms EBF Mares Novice Hurdle Championship Final.
Love Send has won back-to-back sophomore contests after winning the Jayne Seymour at Sandown and the Ryanair Mares ‘Novices’ Hurdle at Cheltenham.
This latest success, where she beat 18 rivals, took her run to five unbeaten hurdles, and Fry will hope she can seal her phenomenal campaign with success at the highest level.
Fry said: “It’s a first year and she rides and takes quite a few good horses, although some of them finished behind her at Cheltenham.
“This time we’re going over there to take them to their own backyard, so it’s not an easy task, but she’s eating well and looking good about herself at home.
“She’s answered every question so far. To have a Cheltenham Festival winner is what we’re all striving for. That’s what we’re all in this game for.”
Fry, who won the same race seven years ago with Bitofapuzzle, hopes there will be plenty of cutting in the ground for Love Send.
Rain is forecast, and Fry added: “We know the task ahead. Cheltenham were in Year Two and Sunday in Year One,” Fry added.
“It’s a race we were lucky enough to win in 2015 and it would be great to do it again.
“Year One is the motto we all love to trade and hopefully it can run and be competitive and cap off what has already been a special season – a win would really be the icing on the cake.
“Getting ground will help. They had 11mm of rain at the start of the week and say they expect another 8mm to 10mm on Saturday night, so obviously if they get it that’s another positive.
“Fingers crossed I hope the rain materializes and it suits us well.”
Con O’Keeffe, who has just three horses in training, relies on Kilbarry Chloe, who is also unbeaten over hurdles, having scored at Wexford and third year company at Limerick last month.
Like Fry, the Waterford manager, whose stables are based in Kilbarry, would welcome any rain for the five-year-old in the extended two-and-a-half-mile event.
He said: “She’s a good mare and she ran well in Limerick, but the conditions probably won’t suit us, really. This will be her last race of the season.
“She has a pedigree that lasts, and I hope the rain comes. It’s well worth a chance, but I hope the pitch won’t be good because she won’t run if it does.”
Brandy Love, a third-year runner-up on the track last time out, leads the Willie Mullins team with Dino Blue, who was kicked out favorite at Cheltenham, to finish ninth behind Love Send.
The BoyleSports Gold Cup, the second of two freshman events on the seven-race card, sees Galopin Des Champs try to catch up when he is cleared in the Turners Novice chase at the Cheltenham Festival.
The 5-6 favorite had firmly overpowered Bob Olinger and was 12 points clear to fail the landing after jumping the last perfectly, and will be a warm order as he takes on five rivals in two and a half. -thousand test.
His rivals include Gordon Elliott’s fifth Arkle, Riviere D’etel, who is tackling the trip for the first time and Noel Meade’s Beacon Edge, who was a well-beaten seventh by L’Homme Presse in the Brown Advisory Novices’ Chase at Chelsea.
Master McShee is offering to reverse the standings with Galopin Des Champs after they clashed in the Ladbrokes first-year novice pursuit at Leopardstown in February.
The eight-year-old trained by Paddy Corkery is already a first-year goalscorer, having landed the Faugheen Novices’ Chase in Limerick on Boxing Day.
Then, after his nine-length loss to Galopin Des Champs at Leopardstown, he was beaten three-quarters length by Sizing Pottsie in the Grade Two Webster Cup at Navan.
Corkery is hopeful Master McShee can continue to progress and said: “He’s up against Galopin Des Champs again and he wasn’t far behind him on the last day they met. It was a very respectable race.
“He probably didn’t jump the first four fences. He was a bit slow and in his mind he’s still a bit of a novice.
“We put him in experienced company on the last day in Navan and it will pay him a lot.
“Farouk D’alene has come out and won since. He was getting noticed when he slipped in the Brown Advisory at Cheltenham, and Galopin Des Champs would have won by a mile at Cheltenham, so the form is there.
“If Sizing Pottsie’s run had been 10 yards longer, he would have been caught. He was getting closer with every stride.”
However, Corkery’s quiet confidence comes with something of an asterisk.
He admitted: “The other problem I have is that he has a tendency to burst blood vessels. If he doesn’t burst on Sunday he will give a good account of himself.
“He’s a better horse on good ground, but the fact that he burst blood vessels is on my mind, so from a betting perspective it’s a bit of a gamble.”