2014 Champion Hurdle hero Jezki will line up in Saturday’s Red Mills Trial Hurdle at Gowran Park on Saturday night before either attempting to reclaim his Champion crown or switch his sights to the Sun Bets Stayers’ Hurdle.
Live on Sky Racing, Jessica Harrington’s Jezki looks likely to take an awful lot of beating on Saturday night following a fine winning reappearance over two miles at Navan last month. That was the nine-year-old’s first run since winning a three mile Grade 1 at the Punchestown Festival back in 2015 and he showed despite problems and a lengthy absence that he appears to retain not only his ability but also his admirable attitude to racing. That previous win has really opened up options for this year’s Cheltenham Festival as his now proven stamina gives owner J P McManus, who has other fancied runners for both the Champion Hurdle and the Sun Bets Stayers’ Hurdle, flexibility with his entries.
It’s possible that at the age of nine connections may favour the more severe test of stamina of the Sun Bets Stayers’ Hurdle, however for now Jezki will once again be tested over the shorter distance on Saturday night and at the weights he should be favoured by getting pounds off key rivals Limini and Sutton Place.
Willie Mullins and owner Rich Ricci must be left scratching their heads after an incredible run of injuries and setbacks to their leading hopes for the Festival but such is their depth that they always have plenty of up and coming horses such as Limini to look forward to. The six-year-old mare boasts some key Champion Hurdle form having finished third as a novice behind Buveur D’Air and Petit Mouchoir at Aintree and second to Whiteout in the Mares Champion Hurdle at Punchestown last April. She was also a winner at the Cheltenham Festival and was the subject of enormous hype throughout her novice campaign which was almost impossible to live up to.
First up, Saturday represents a key step up now for Limini with Jezki setting a lofty standard. Also entered on Saturday are Gordon Elliott’s pair Sutton Place and Tombstone. The former has been highly progressive in winning his last three from four overall starts over hurdles but faces a stiff test giving nine pounds to Jezki. The six-year-old, who is also owned by J P McManus, stepped up from 10 months off to successfully step out of novice company to win a Grade 3 at Naas in January with plenty in hand. He remains a very exciting prospect although his real potential may be fulfilled over fences in due course. His stablemate Tombstone has been highly-tried in the past and faced an uphill task attempting to concede six pounds to Jezki on the first run of his campaign at Navan. The seven-year-old gets to race off level weights with Jezki, which although may not be enough to reverse the form, does make him an interesting contender each-way if allowed to go off too big.
Catch the 2014 Champion Hurdle winner Jezki live on Sky Racing on Saturday night.