Top Gamble can deliver Grade Two success for Richard Johnson

Britain’s champion jockey-elect planning a Fairyhouse raid in Normans Grove Chase

Britain's new champion jockey-elect Richard Johnson is the star attraction at Fairyhouse's Easter festival finale and can maintain his 100 per cent record in the Grade Two feature aboard Kerry Lee's Top Gamble.

Runner-up to Tony McCoy a remarkable 16 times in the cross-channel jockeys championship, the veteran Englishman has already passed the 200 winner post during a momentous campaign.

It is a dozen years since Johnson travelled to Fairyhouse to win the Normans Grove Chase with Florida Pearl and he is back for the same race with obvious claims on the sole raider in a six-strong field.

Johnson was on board Top Gamble when the horse overwhelmed Dodging Bullets and Captain Conan in Newbury’s Game Spirit last month on very heavy ground but better going should be no trouble to the Lee runner who landed a Grade Two on a good surface at Ayr last season.


The Lee team made an Easter festival mark with Kylemore Lough’s Ryanair Gold Cup victory and Top Gamble has 4lbs in hand of the popular local star Flemenstar on official ratings.

Last year's winner Twinlight is back while Days Hotel had the Mullins runner behind him when winning at Naas. But Johnson and Top Gamble can take the pot across the sea.

The most valuable pot of the day is the €55,000 novice handicap hurdle, a three mile contest that could showcase the winning form of Tony Martin's team. Kinnitty Castle was heavily backed to win the Leopardstown race ultimately won by Squouateur over Christmas only to be pulled up. He was found to be coughing post-race.

The result for this former Gowran bumper winner is that his 109 mark now sees him lurking at the bottom of the handicap and he could shape as a major threat to the highweights, Robin Thyme, Burgas and Coney Island.

Martin throws four at the two-mile handicap including the veteran topweight Ted Veale whose presence sees Anibale Fly race off 10.13. The JP McManus-owned runner was running on notably well behind Solita on his previous start and the form of his Navan maiden win in December looks decent.

A Royal Ascot winner and Doncaster Cup runner-up who is having his first start over flights since last year's Punchestown festival, Clondaw Warrior could be a very dangerous proposition but Anibale Fly has race-sharpness on his side.

Willie Mullins' Some Neck has finished runner-up to Sunni May and Gurteen on both his starts to date and looks up to landing the bumper for the champion trainer.

Brian O'Connor

Brian O'Connor

Brian O'Connor is the racing correspondent of The Irish Times. He also writes the Tipping Point column