BY Shaun O’Dea
ENTRIES closed on Monday for the first session of the Maze Festival tomorrow (Friday).
Friday’s feature, the Grade 2 WKD Hurdle with the longstanding sponsorship endorsed by leading local owner, Joe Sloan from Templepatrick, has seven entries engaged. Like so many of the races over the two days, trainer Gordon Elliott supplies the headline act in the £60,000 event with Abacadabras unraced since denied by a head in the Supreme Novices Hurdle at the Cheltenham festival in March by Shishkin.
The star novice also finished runner-up to stable companion Envoi Allen at Fairyhouse last season. Sixshooter from the inform stable of Noel Meade and Aspire Tower are next best on ratings.
Elliott made the decision some time ago that Envoi Allen, unbeaten in his eight starts to date including the Grade 1 Ballymore Hurdle at Cheltenham in March, would go chasing this season and is one of a trio representing the trainer in the Beginners Chase with 13 engaged. The Henry de Bromhead duo, Trainwreck and January Jets can ensure the likely odds on favourite is tested.
The Grade 3 EBF Mares Novice Hurdle attracts ten entries. Queens Brook, third in the Champion bumper at the Cheltenham Festival, made a winning debut over hurdles at Fairyhouse earlier this month for Elliott, however in a more competitive looking contest Brave Way, a £160,000 purchase following winning her point to point, scored on her first start over hurdles for Henry De Bromhead and could prove a worthy opponent.
Elliott has a quartet entered in the EBF Maiden Hurdle, all running in the Gigginstown Stud colours. De Bromhead has a trio engaged including another Gigginstown owned pair in Bold Assassin and Centurion Steel along with Kirkistown point winner Hollymacpony making his track debut.
Larne trainer, Stuart Crawford has a duo entered with Pat’s Pick notable being owned by the Sloan family who sponsor the feature.
The handicap hurdle has the biggest entry with 35 engaged and the handicap chase has 16 and Elliott is responsible for a quartet in the race while the County Meath trainer again has four in the concluding bumper out of eleven entries.