With three Grade 1’s and a Grade 3 Sunday’s high-class card at Fairyhouse is one of the most prestigious of the national hunt season in Ireland and this year’s fixture looks sure to have provided plenty of clues with the 2017 Cheltenham Festival in mind.

The opening Grade 3 Bar One Racing Juvenile Hurdle went to the Joseph O’Brien-trained even money favourite Landofhopeandglory who consolidated his position at the head of the ante-post market for the Triumph Hurdle with a workmanlike victory over Bapaume and Mega Fortune. A general 7-1 for the juvenile championship in March with most bookmakers this year’s Queen’s Vase fourth is available at a point bigger with Boylesport and Coral to give his handler a second win in the race following Ivanovich Gorbatov in 2016.

The Grade 1 Bar One Racing Royal Bond Novice Hurdle went to jockey Danny Mullins aboard the unbeaten Airlie Beach who was winning for the seventh time but the all-the-way scorer’s task was made easier when Labaik, on a hat-trick attempt following victories at Punchestown and Navan, once again showed his stubborn side by refusing to race as was the case on the sand at Laytown back in September. 7-4 Favourite Peace News was still in with a chance of making a race of it with the winner when falling at the second-last. Airlie Beach has been promoted to ante-post favourite for the Mares Novices Hurdle at the festival at a best price 6-1 with Boylesports and Ladbrokes.

The Grade 1 Bar One Hatton’s Grace Hurdle produced a thrilling duel in the closing stages between Vroum Vroum Mag and Apple Jade with the latter just getting the better of Ruby Walsh’s mount who was beaten for the first time in eleven starts for trainer Willie Mullins. Both horses could meet again in the Mares Hurdle at Cheltenham where the pair can’t be split by bookmakers Bet365 and William Hill at 5-2 although Apple Jade can be backed at a standout 11-4 with Stan James.

In probably the best novice chase seen so far this season Coney Island ran out a game winner over some better fancied rivals in the Grade 1 Bar One Racing Drinmore Novice Chase to provide a 1-2 for owner JP McManus with his strongly-fancied Anibale Fly filling the runner-up spot. Edward Harty’s five-year-old looks tailormade for the RSA and it will be surprising if the 16-1 currently on offer with Skybet about the winner following up in the ‘ Novices Gold Cup ‘ in March lasts very long.

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By Alan Kelly

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