Finian’s Rainbow, winner of the 2012 Champion Chase at Cheltenham, hasn’t run since he was pulled up in the Paddy Power Gold Cup in November 2013 at the same track but has been declared in the Leane’s Tool Hire & Lawnmowers Chase over an extended two and a half miles tomorrow where he will be ridden by Paul Townend.
Simonsig was last seen when winning the 2013 Arkle Trophy, but could feature in the Laurels Pub & Restaurant Hurdle on Monday.
Injuries are to blame for the long absence of the talented duo but trainer Nicky Henderson has opted to enter both in Killarney, a decision that has delighted officials at the Kerry course.
“They have caused quite a stir,” Brid Lucey, sales and marketing manager at Killarney Racecourse, said.
“I know they are ground dependent – they’d need good ground — but obviously we’re delighted that they’re running them here. It’s huge and that should draw a big crowd.”
A dashing grey who looked destined for the top before a splint injury intervened, Simonsig would be a particularly big attraction.
“Simonsig hasn’t been out in two years so it’s a big thing that he and Finian’s Rainbow are coming over here. They would bring a crowd of their own, especially Simonsig. If one of those horses runs on Sunday and/or the other on Monday, it’ll just be huge.”
However, the three-day meeting won’t just be about the equine talents of show, Lucey insists.
“Sunday is Lá na gClub which basically means that we have six local GAA teams — Dr Crokes, Legion, Gneeveguilla, Glenflesk, Milltown/Castlemaine and Laune Rangers — with their top-class free-takers participating in a free-taking competition in between races,” Lucey said.
“Each player gets 90 seconds to kick as many shots as they can from 45 yards over the bar. Whoever kicks the most will win €3,000 for their club.
“Last year James O’Donoghue, the subsequent footballer of the year, All-Ireland winner and All Star won it for the Legion GAA club. We have six clubs involved again this year and we’re really looking forward to that. It’s done really well and it’s extremely good fun. It marries the two things — GAA and racing, both of which are huge in Kerry.”
The Ladbrokes Ireland Handicap Hurdle worth €50,000 is tomorrow’s feature while Monday’s big race is the Killarney National.
Tuesday is a Flat card with 50% of gate proceeds going to the Kerry/Cork Cancer bus.
“All in all, there’s an awful lot happening,” Lucey said. “Sunday is definitely a family day and Monday and Tuesday are evening meetings and I’d expect we’d have a big crowd on Monday evening again.
“You’d be looking for 3,000 or more Sunday and Monday.”