Racing: Meade plans Square route to Festival: Richard Edmondson on an Irish hurdler ready for the burden of high expectation

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HE HAS speed, he has staying ability and he has form. In fact the only ingredient that the leading inmate at Noel Meade's yard at Navan in Co Meath has against him is racing's lore that top races go only to prettily named horses. He is called Tiananmen Square.

The derivation of the four-year- old's inglorious moniker has never been properly explained and Meade himself is faintly embarrassed by it. 'It's an unusual name all right, but it's the name he has now,' he says. 'He's always been known as Flash in the yard anyway.'

The nickname sits tidily with Tiananmen Square's achievements. The winner of two bumper races in the first half of last season, the horse went into the Cheltenham Festival accompanied by the dual albatrosses of 'Ireland's banker of the meeting' and 'the new Arkle'.

This burden was enough to relegate Tiananmen Square into second place in the Festival Bumper last March behind Montelado, but he subsequently gained revenge at Punchestown to sharpen anticipation for the start of the gelding's jumping career. That moment comes at Fairyhouse tomorrow in the Thomastown Maiden Hurdle, when he will be ridden by Ireland's champion jump jockey, Charlie Swan.

When he trots out on to the course, Tiananmen Square will embark on a career that Meade envisaged from the moment he saw the horse circling at Newmarket's October Sales.

'He's very much the type of horse that I've been training over the years,' Meade says. 'The way we work here means I like a horse that has a bit of size and a bit of scope, the sort to make a jumper if we do miss on the Flat.

'He would have won his maiden on the Flat, but we decided to wait for a bumper with him, and when he did a piece of work with Novello Allegro (the stable's useful juvenile hurdler) we realised that he was a bit useful.'

As Tiananmen Square moves into a different sphere, Meade is convinced he can cope on the evidence of practice-ground movements. 'He schooled all last season. We school all our horses regularly when we know they're going to go jumping, maybe once a week,' he says, 'and he did it quite well in a schooling race which he ran in at Dundalk six weeks ago. He's a pretty natural jumper.'

Meade issues all the usual disclaimers about tomorrow's venture. 'I'm sure he'll be a bit rusty about the game on his first run, and I wouldn't have thought he's 100 per cent wound up,' he says. But his choice for the next venture gives away what is expected. 'After Saturday I would imagine he'll go for a winners' race at Leopardstown,' he says.

This campaign again has Cheltenham as its focus, and Meade is touched by sufficient optimism to look even further forward than next March. 'I couldn't say at this stage which race he'll go for at the Festival, but I wouldn't be afraid to run him over two miles because the plan is to bring him back the following year as well,' he says. 'He's always going to compete at the highest level.'

With Tiananmen Square's promise already provoking notions of a challenge on the 1994 Champion Hurdle, there will be many expecting top races to come his way this season.

His is a package that could only be more persuasive if the horse took advantage of an equine deed poll.

(Photograph omitted)