Cheltenham Festival heroine Shattered Love bids to get back on the winning trail in the John And Chich Fowler Memorial EBF Mares Chase at Fairyhouse on Sunday.
It will be three years in March since Gordon Elliott’s charge won what is now the Marsh Novices’ Chase at the showpiece meeting in the Cotswolds, after which she pushed subsequent dual Gold Cup winner Al Boum Photo all the way in the Ryanair Gold Cup at Fairyhouse.
While she has found victories hard to come by since, Shattered Love successfully defended her crown in a Listed event at Clonmel on her penultimate start, before being well beaten in a competitive handicap hurdle at Navan last time.
“She’s been a great mare for us for the last few seasons and I thought she looked as good as ever when she won well from Cabaret Queen at Clonmel a couple of months ago,” Elliott told Betfair.
“Last time out I brought her back to hurdles for a big pot at Navan, but it just didn’t happen for her. She got never get involved and was well beaten.
“I don’t think we saw the real Shattered Love that day and she should do much better back over fences and in mares only company.
“There’s a few decent mares in here, but if she runs her race, she must have a great chance.”
As well as Clonmel runner-up Cabaret Queen, Willie Mullins saddles Salsaretta, who won her first four starts over fences last season, but fell at the first on her reappearance at Punchestown in November.
Agusta Gold (Mags Mullins), Ellie Mac (Henry de Bromhead), Miss Pernickety (Joseph O’Brien) and Moyhenna (Denis Hogan) also feature.
Elliott is keeping his fingers crossed Queens Brook can show her true colours earlier in the afternoon when she contests the Wishing Everyone A Healthy 2021 Mares Hurdle.
An excellent third behind the Mullins-trained pair of Ferny Hollow and Appreciate It in last season’s Champion Bumper, the daughter of Shirocco was made to work hard to justify prohibitive odds on her hurdling debut here in October.
Since then, Queens Brook has been touched off by Skyace in a Grade Three at Down Royal and finished a distant third behind the exciting Concertista in a Grade Two at this venue.
Elliott said: “I suppose you could say that her season hasn’t quite gone to plan, but I think there is more to come from her over hurdles and she hasn’t yet gotten back to the form that saw her finish third in the bumper at Cheltenham.
“In hindsight her second to Skyace at Down Royal in October wasn’t a bad run and we probably asked to much of her last time when she took on Concertista and had to settle for third.
“I don’t think she gave her running that day and I’m expecting better from her this time, but this does look a hot race and it looks a Graded class contest in everything but name.”
Mullins relies on impressive course winner Hook Up, while Dermot McLoughlin’s Delvino and Peter Fahey’s Royal Kahala are others in the mix.