Davy Russell is delighted to have picked up the ride on Hennessy Cognac Gold Cup second-favourite Abragante.
Russell has come in for the mount as Timmy Murphy, owner David Johnson’s retained rider, is suspended and first choice substitute Paul Carberry is required by his boss Noel Meade at Newcastle.
The Irishman, who had a season as stable jockey to Ferdy Murphy, is currently leading the race to be crowned champion in his homeland.
Russell could not commit earlier in the week as he may have been required to ride Mossbank in the Hennessy by Michael Hourigan, but he has since been rerouted to the Lexus Chase.
“It’s great, I was delighted to get the call,” said Russell.
“There’s racing in Ireland on Saturday but it’s not every day you get the chance to ride a nice horse in the Hennessy, so I made the decision to come to England and ride Abragante.
“Timmy (Murphy) rang me over the weekend and wanted me to find out about my commitments. At the time Mossbank was still in the race and I also had to wait until the entries came out for Fairyhouse.
“I spoke to Timmy on Tuesday night, and David Pipe (trainer), and I said I’d be very happy to come over and ride him.
“Looking at his races he did it quite well the last day at Wincanton. But he has to prove if he can handle a 14lb rise in the weights which is going to be tough.
“But I’m sure the Pipe team are happy with him and I’m happy to ride him.
“Timmy says he’s is pretty straightforward and he likes to arrive late on the scene, so if you see him early in the race it might not be the best thing.
“Mossbank will hopefully run in the Lexus, that seems to be the plan. He won well the last day. Some of the others might not have performed up to scratch but he did and he deserves to step up to Grade One company,” he told At The Races.
Pat Hughes is hoping his 2006 Irish Grand National winner Point Barrow is about to come back to form.
The nine-year-old was tailed off at Galway last month on his first start since April.
That was a confidence-restoring run after he fell at the first in the Grand National when sent off co-favourite at Aintree.
“He didn’t run very well last time, so we are hoping he’ll do better than that,” said the Bagenalstown trainer.
“He’s a horse that takes some time to come to himself. Only once in his life has he won a race before Christmas. I hope he’s on his way to doing something.
“He’s a better horse when we get towards the spring and hopefully he’ll go back for the National.”
Andy Turnell is among a select band of men who have trained and ridden the winner of the prestigious race.
He partnered April Seventh to victory in 1975 and trained Cogent, ridden by Dan Fort, in 1993 to a famous success.
Turnell is due to be represented by Bible Lord at the weekend, who at one stage looked unlikely to get a run.
“I thought he was very doubtful to get in but it now looks very conceivable, a few of the Irish appear to have other targets so we are hopeful,” said Turnell.
“He’s also in another race on Sunday so we have that to fall back on. Nowadays you can declare for both.
“He appeared to need his first run. He took a long while to come to himself last year, he needed two runs, but I’m hoping he’ll only need one this year.
“It’s probably coming quick enough, but he’ll never have the same chance again if he makes the progress we think he will, to run in a Hennessy off 10st.
“It’s been a lucky race for me and it would be lovely to do it again.”
Willie Mullins’ Snowy Morning, second to favourite Denman in the Royal & SunAlliance Chase, has been well backed and is now as low as 6-1 with VC Bet.
Hennessy Cognac Gold Cup
VC Bet: 7-2 Denman, 11-2 Abragante, 6-1 New Alco, Snowy Morning, 10-1 Patsy Hall, 12-1 Character Building, Dom D’Orgeval, 14-1 Juveigneur, 16-1 Knowhere, Sir Rembrandt, 20-1 Bible Lord, Hard Act To Follow, Alderburn, Dream Alliance, 25-1 bar.