Former two-mile king Jezki on trial for Cheltenham target
Jessica Harrington expects to learn more about what Jezki's Cheltenham Festival target should be by running in Saturday's Red Mills Trial Hurdle at Gowran Park.
Winner of the Champion Hurdle in 2014 but no match for Faugheen the following season, the JP McManus-owned nine-year-old may bid to regain his crown at Prestbury Park having looked as good as ever when making a winning return from over a year and a half on the sidelines in a conditions race at Navan last month.
However, he also won a Grade One over three miles at Punchestown a couple of years ago, seeing off old foe Hurricane Fly, and the Stayers' Hurdle is a viable alternative.
Jezki sticks to two miles for this weekend's Grade Three contest and faces just four rivals.
Harrington said: " He worked after racing at Naas last weekend and we were very happy with him. All seems to be well and he's had plenty of time (since his comeback run) and I think that's the main thing, time.
"I hope he is (as good as ever) and Saturday will tell us a lot more."
With fellow McManus-owned gelding Sutton Place instead lining up in Sunday's Boyne Hurdle at Navan and Willie Mullins-trained mare Limini a notable absentee, Jezki would appear to face a relatively straightforward task in County Kilkenny.
Gordon Elliott's Tombstone was just under three lengths behind Jezki at Navan a month ago and renews rivalries.
Colin Kidd's stable star Rashaan claimed the scalp of Apple's Jade in November's WKD Hurdle at Down Royal and after being given a break, made a successful comeback on the all-weather at Dundalk last week.
However, he has to give Jezki 8lb, despite being rated 28lb inferior.
Kidd said: "He's fit and well and came out of Dundalk in good form.
"We all know he won't be in love with the ground, but it's our local track and we said we'd take a chance.
"Despite the ground, I think he'll give a good account of himself and there's good prize-money for the places.
"To give 8lb to a former Champion Hurdle winner will be nearly impossible, but we'll give it a go."
Rory O'Moore and Rock On Rosie, both of whom have a mountain to climb on the book, complete the line-up.
Another small but select field of four goes to post for the Red Mills Chase.
Ballycasey, a former winner of the PWC Champion Chase over this course and distance, is sent into battle by Mullins.
Gigginstown House Stud are represented by Elliott's recent Clonmel scorer Clarcam and the Mouse Morris-trained Mozoltov, and Jimmy Mangan's Montys Meadow rounds off the quartet.
The opening www.gowranpark.ie Beginners Chase is an interesting event.
High-class novice hurdler Bachasson fell on his chasing debut at Thurles before finding Edwulf too strong at Punchestown, but will likely be popular to make it third-time lucky.
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