Ferny Hollow in top form for eagerly-awaited second start over fences

Connections of Ferny Hollow have complete faith in the horse’s ability as he steps into Grade One company on only his second race over fences.

The 2020 Cheltenham Champion Bumper winner, owned by Cheveley Park Stud and trained by Willie Mullins, heads for the Racing Post Novice Chase at Leopardstown on Sunday on the back of victory at Punchestown three weeks ago.

The six-year-old was sent off the 8-15 favourite for a beginners’ chase over two miles and a furlong and duly disposed of 14 rivals, with Henry de Bromhead’s Coeur Sublime, who reopposes, beaten four lengths in second place.

Ferny Hollow after winning the Champion Bumper at the Cheltenham Festival
Ferny Hollow after winning the Champion Bumper at the Cheltenham Festival (Andrew Matthews/PA)

That was his first race since he defeated Bob Olinger on his only sole start over hurdles in November 2020.

Ferny Hollow is reported to have thrived for the run, though he has a tougher assignment on his hands as he has to give 13lb to Riviere D’etel.

The four-year-old filly is unbeaten in three starts over fences – the last two victories coming at graded level, the most recent of those when part of a magnificent seven Gordon Elliott winners at Navan earlier this month.

“Ferny Hollow came out of Punchestown fantastic,” said Patrick Mullins, assistant to his father.

“I think Riviere D’etel going hard in front will help him jump and settle. He has to give her a lot of weight, but I think his class will tell.”

The Closutton stable have a second string to their bow in Grand Bornand, who made a pleasing switch to the bigger obstacles with victory at Galway in July.

“He’s going to have to step up on his form, but he looks a better chaser than he was a hurdler and it would be no surprise if he can get some prize-money,” said Mullins.

Oliver McKiernan’s Gallant John Joe will be in action after a 635-day absence. The eight-year-old had useful form in the 2019-20 campaign, finishing third to Notebook in the Grade One Arkle Novice Chase at Leopardstown. Zoffanien, trained by Denis Hogan, completes the six-strong field.

Headlining the undercard is the Grade Two Knight Frank Juvenile Hurdle, where Gordon Elliott’s Fil Dor renews rivalry with the Noel Meade-trained Lunar Power.

A length and a quarter separated the pair in a Grade Three at Fairyhouse last month.

Lunar Power (left) and Fil Dor locked in action
Lunar Power (left) and Fil Dor locked in action (Niall Carson/PA)

Elliott, who also runs Britzka, said of Fil Dor: “He has a 3lb penalty for beating Noel Meade’s horse a length and a quarter the last day and hopefully we can overcome that. He’s a nice horse.

“He’s a big horse and with a summer’s grass next year he could be anything. He’s a nice horse to look forward to.”

Meade said of his runner: “He’s in good form and we’re happy with him. He ran well the last day, but he still got beat.

“The ground the last day would maybe have suited him better than it would have suited Gordon’s horse, I’d say softer ground is probably more to his advantage.”

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