Byrnes hopeful ahead of Grace
Solwhit ready for Sunday service
By Nic Doggett. Last Updated: 23/11/10 4:03pm
Solwhit: Hatton's Grace favourite
Charles Byrnes is confident of a big run from Solwhit in the Hatton's Grace Hurdle at Fairyhouse on Sunday.
Although beaten a quarter of a length by Hurricane Fly in the Rabobank Champion Hurdle at Punchestown in April, Byrnes is optimistic that his charge can reverse the form this weekend.
He told skysports.com, "I'd be hopeful enough."
"I'm sure that he'll (Hurricane Fly) be fit and well if Willie (Mullins) decides to run him as it's two and a half miles in testing ground.
"If we can't beat him over two and a half miles in this ground then we won't have much business taking him on over two miles later on," he added.
Solwhit has already won the Dobbins & Madigans at Punchestown Hurdle, a run that pleased his Co. Limerick handler.
"He had been working quite lazily before the run but as soon as he got to the race itself he came alive and we were very happy with how he performed," he said.
On this weekend last year, Byrnes decided to travel to Newcastle for the Fighting Fifth, the first leg of a £1million bonus put up by former sponsors WBX.com.
"Last year we were influenced by the bonus but whether there was one or not this year we wouldn't go back," he explains.
"Ideally he needs longer than two weeks between his races and with the travelling and everything last year it all was just too quick for him.
"At least he won't have to travel this year," he adds.
Although a well-beaten sixth in last-year's Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham, Byrnes has Prestbury Park on the agenda for his stable star again.
"Naturally he'll be aimed for Cheltenham but not specifically just for there. He could run a blinder and only finish fourth as there are so many good horses around."
On future targets he added: "It'll be Grade Ones all the way."
William Hill have installed Solwhit as their 5-4 favourite for Sunday's race.
Hurricane Fly is rated a 10-3 chance by Hills who also offer 6-1 about last year's winner Oscar Dan Dan, while Donnas Palm and Voler La Vedette are both available at 8-1.
"It's great to see Ireland's leading hurdlers clashing so early in the season," said William Hill spokesman Tony Kenny.
"Solwhit and Hurricane Fly look like the obvious candidates, although you certainly couldn't rule out the chances of Oscar Dan Dan retaining his Hattons Grace crown."