Meadow in fine fettle
View from connections ahead of Saturday's Coolmore Soldier Of Fortune Mares Novice Hurdle at Fairyhouse.
Jessica Harrington (far left): One eye on Cheltenham
Jessica Harrington is keeping her fingers crossed Forge Meadow can book her ticket to the Cheltenham Festival in the Coolmore Soldier Of Fortune Mares Novice Hurdle at Fairyhouse on Saturday.
The daughter of Beneficial made an impressive start to her career in a valuable bumper at the County Meath circuit last spring before chasing home Augusta Kate at Punchestown.
She opened her account over hurdles at the first attempt at Wexford in November, after which she was stepped up to Grade One level in the Royal Bond Novice Hurdle.
While Forge Meadow was ultimately well beaten as she came home last of five finishers, she was badly hampered by the fall of Peace News two flights from the finish.
Harrington said: "Unfortunately, she got interfered with at the wrong time in the Royal Bond. She had no luck in running. I think she'd have finished a good bit closer but for that and we'll see what she can do on Saturday.
"She's only just turned five, so we decided to miss Christmas and wait for this race. She appears in good form and has schooled well, so we'll see what happens. The mares' novice hurdle in Cheltenham is the aim, but we'll see how she goes at Fairyhouse."
Willie Mullins won this prize for the fourth successive year with subsequent Cheltenham heroine Limini 12 months ago.
Mullins this time fires a twin assault, with stable jockey Ruby Walsh interestingly siding with Navan maiden hurdle winner Pravalaguna over the Grade One-placed Asthuria, the mount of Paul Townend.
Asthuria fell three from home when an odds-on favourite for a Listed prize at Thurles in December and the emphatic winner of that race, Gordon Elliott's Shattered Love, is also in this nine-strong field.
Noel Meade's She's A Star, who was runner-up to top-class novice Death Duty on her latest appearance, is another to consider in a fascinating contest.