Dual winner of this race, Irving (168), goes for the hat-trick but is likely to have a lot more on his plate with Champion Hurdle winner Buveur D’Air (181+) lined up for his seasonal debut. Irving was arguably lucky to hold on against Gordon Elliott’s top class mare Apple’s Jade (173+) twelve months ago, a race in which she finished strongly after being hampered three out but is no certainty to run with the Hatton’s Grace at Fairyhouse a definite option.
If she does turn up, two miles is on the sharp side, but given that conditions should be testing the race could play into her hands if making the running and bringing stamina into the equation. Buveur D’Air, on Quickened Clear’s ratings is a class apart and if anywhere near race fit should have too much for this field with Apple’s Jade stealing the race from the front, the only conceivable alternative outcome. John Constable (153+) may yet improve but winning the Summer Hurdle at Market Rasen is a far cry from taking on top class hurdlers in the Fighting Fifth, while Flying Tiger (150+) struggled in the Grade Two Elite Hurdle at Wincanton and both the aforementioned horses are realistically playing for place money.