Empire Of Dirt a doubt for Irish National

Cheltenham Festival hero Empire Of Dirt is unlikely to make a swift return to action in the BoyleSports Irish Grand National on Easter Monday.
Empire Of Dirt a doubt for Irish National

The Colm Murphy-trained nine-year-old fell at the first fence in the Fairyhouse feature last year and also came to grief on his return to action in the Troytown Chase at Navan in November.

He has endured mixed fortunes since, but showed his true talent when scoring at Leopardstown in January and backed that up with an impressive display in last week’s Brown Advisory & Merriebelle Stable Plate at Prestbury Park.

Murphy said: “He seems fine. Everything is good and we’re delighted with him.

“It’s probably unlikely he’ll run at Fairyhouse, so we might look for something in Aintree with him.

“He won over two-and-a-half miles the other day, but I think we could step up or step back in trip if we wanted to. We’ll see what the options are and go from there.”

Meanwhile, Harry Fry believes the Irish Stallion Farms European Breeders Fund Mares Novice Hurdle Championship Final at Fairyhouse is the ideal race for Jessber’s Dream.

Having claimed the Grade One prize 12 months ago with Bitofapuzzle, the Seaborough handler will bid to repeat the trick with the improving six-year-old on Easter Sunday.

In what has been a relatively busy campaign, the former point-to-point winner has posted three victories from five starts over hurdles this season, including last time out in a Grade Two contest at Sandown.

He said: “Jessber’s Dream has been very good at home since her last win and I’m really looking forward to taking her over to Ireland.

“She can get quite hot headed, but she seems to have taking her travelling well this season. I think the two-and-half-mile trip will be perfect for her and she will get the cut in the ground she wants. She is progressing with her racing.”

Jessber’s Dream could be joined in Ireland by fellow novice hurdler American after he sidestepped an outing in the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival on Friday.

Though sidelined for much of the campaign through injury, the six-year-old built on a solid debut at Aintree when beating subsequent Grade Two winner Label Des Obeaux on his second start at Ascot in November.

Fry added: “He could go to Fairyhouse on Easter Sunday for a two-and-a-half-mile Grade Two novice hurdle.”

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Join us for a special evening of Cheltenham chat on Friday March 12 at 6.30pm with racing legend and Irish Examiner columnist Ruby Walsh, Irish Examiner racing correspondent Tommy Lyons, and former champion jockey and tv presenter Mick Fitzgerald, author of Better than Sex.

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