Harry Fry sends stable flag-bearer and Cheltenham Festival heroine Love Envoi into the lion’s den in a bid for Grade One glory at Fairyhouse on Sunday.
The six-year-old puts her unbeaten record on the line in the Irish Stallion Farms EBF Mares Novice Hurdle Championship Final.
Love Envoi has won back-to-back Grade Two contests following success in the Jayne Seymour at Sandown and the Ryanair Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle at Cheltenham.
That last success, where she beat 18 rivals, took her run to five unbeaten over hurdles, and Fry hopes she can seal her phenomenal campaign with a top-level success.
Fry said: “It is a Grade One and she comes up and takes on quite a few good horses, although some of them finished behind her at Cheltenham.
“This time we are going there to take them on in their own backyard, so it is no easy task, but she is eating well and seems well in herself at home.
“She has answered every question so far. To have a Cheltenham Festival winner is what we all strive to achieve. That is what we are all in this game for.”
Fry, who won the same race seven years ago with Bitofapuzzle, hopes there will be plenty of cut in the ground for Love Envoi.
Rain is forecast, and Fry added: “We know the task facing her. Cheltenham was a Grade Two and Sunday is a Grade One,” added Fry.
“This was a race we were lucky enough to win in 2015 and it would be great to do it again.
“Grade One is the currency we all like to trade in and hopefully she can run and be competitive and cap what has already been a special season – a win would really be the icing on top.
“Yielding ground will help. They had 11 millimetres of rain early in the week and say they are forecast another 8mm to 10mm on Saturday night, so obviously if they get it, it is another positive.
“Fingers crossed, hopefully that rain materialises and that will suit us nicely indeed.”
Brandy Love, runner-up in a Grade Three at the track last time, heads the Willie Mullins team along with Dino Blue, who was sent off favourite at Cheltenham, only to finish ninth behind Love Envoi.
The BoyleSports Gold Cup, the second of the two Grade One events on the seven-race card, sees Galopin Des Champs bid to make up for his fall when well clear at the last in the Turners’ Novices’ Chase at the Cheltenham Festival.
The 5-6 favourite had firmly mastered Bob Olinger and was 12 lengths in front only to come to grief on landing after jumping the last perfectly, and will be a warm order as he takes on five rivals in the two-and-a-half-mile test.
Master McShee bids to reverse placings with Galopin Des Champs following their clash in the Grade One Ladbrokes Novices’ Chase at Leopardstown in February.
The Paddy Corkery-trained eight-year-old is already a Grade One scorer, having landed the Faugheen Novices’ Chase at Limerick on Boxing Day.
Then, following his nine-length defeat to Galopin Des Champs at Leopardstown, he was beaten three-quarters of a length by Sizing Pottsie in the Grade Two Webster Cup at Navan.
Corkery hopes that Master McShee can keep progressing and said: “He is taking on Galopin Des Champs again and he wasn’t far behind him the last day they met. It was a very respectable run.
“He probably didn’t jump the first four fences. He was a little bit slow and in his mind he is still a little bit of a novice.
“We put him into experienced company the last day at Navan and that will bring him on a lot.
“Farouk D’alene has come out and won since. He was giving a good account of himself when he slipped up in the Brown Advisory at Cheltenham, and Galopin Des Champs would have won by a country mile at Cheltenham, so the form is there.
“If the Sizing Pottsie race has been another 10 yards, he would have been caught. He was closing with every stride.”
However, Corkery’s quiet confidence comes with something of an asterisk.
He admitted: “The other issue I have is that he does tend to burst blood vessels. If he doesn’t burst on Sunday, he will give a good account of himself.
“He is a better horse on good ground, but the fact that he bursts blood vessels is in the back of my mind, so from a punters’ perspective, he is a bit of a gamble.”